Mehrdad Bazrpash seen with a group of hardliners. Undated

Iran's Ultraconservatives Rebrand Ahead Of 2024 Election

Tuesday, 03/07/2023

News broke March 2 of the emergence of a new ultraconservative political coalition in Iran, indicating jostling for next year’s parliamentary elections.

Iranian journalist Saleh Meftah reported on Twitter two days later that a new coalition has emerged among members of the ultraconservative Paydari Party, which has the upper hand in the Iranian parliament. According to the report some 500 ultraconservative politicians took part in a meeting in Velenjak at a building where former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets his aides.

The meeting was called by Roads and Housing Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, a leading member of Paydari and at least two other Paydari leaders, firebrand cleric Mahmoud Nabavian who is known for his opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal and former populist presidential candidate Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi. They were seen close to Bazrpash at the meeting. Less prominent Paydari members such as controversial cleric Hamid Rasaei were also present.

Officially, the meeting was the first general assembly of a coalition named Sharian [Vein] which stands for the Persian acronym of the Strategic Network of Supporters of the Islamic Revolution. Critics said that Sharian was the rebranded version of Paydari [steadfastness] which has been discredited for its inaction in the parliament despite slogans of bringing about revolutionary changes in the country's current situation.

The economic and political situation has deteriorated so much since the hardliners took over both the parliament and the presidency that a re-branding is seen as necessary for maintaining power.

President Raisi seen during his inauguration in the parliament with hardliner lawmakers in August 2021

Moderate Rouydad24 news website observed that the large meeting by ultraconservatives was held while their political rivals, Iran's reformists seem generally not engaged with electoral politics.

It also teased the ultraconservatives who call themselves "revolutionaries" for holding their meeting at one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Tehran on the slopes of Alborz mountains, at a place higher than the blanket of smug suffocating the Iranian capital.

The coalitions leaders have said that the new group was born immediately after the 2021 presidential election that brought ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi to power in the absence of any other serious candidate.

The official launching of the coalition coincided with similar events in the conservative camp including the introduction of another new coalition by Tehran's Mayor Alireza Zakani, labeled the "Society for the Revival of Islamic Revolution's Popular Institutions."

Ultraconservative politician and Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani

This comes while according to Rouydad24, it is highly unlikely that reformist groups and parties can get organized and geared up for the parliamentary elections in early 2024, even if Khamenei's Guardian Council gives them the go ahead to run.

Khamenei’s loyalists disqualified reformists en masse before the 2020 elections, which resulted in a low turnout race, which hardliners handily won.

The website said that reformists are so isolated that they appear to have lost their appetite for any political competition. Meanwhile, the recent resignation of the Chairman of Reform Front, the umbrella organization of Iran's reformist groups may have made it even more difficult for the reformist to think of competing in March 2024.

The emergence of the two hardliner coalitions also marks a divide among ultraconservatives. However, Zakani's around 20 coalition members cannot be compared to Bazrpash's 500 men.

During the weekend, conservative news website Nameh News Criticized Bazrpash for his early start to election campaigning and complained to Raisi about his behavior and asked the President whether he has allowed Bazrpash to take time off from the troubled administration to organize an electoral coalition. Raisi has so far not responded, but criticism of Bazrpash is not unprecedented as his rivals have accused him of getting his job based on fake academic credentials. They also charged that he has no executive experience for his role as a cabinet minister.

The critics asked Raisi isn't it better that his ministers focus on the country's problems? They have also asked about the financial resources for the party meeting.

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