A gathering of ultra-conservative Paydari Party in 2020

Iran’s Conservatives Divided Over Nature Of Islamic Regime

Tuesday, 04/18/2023

As Iran’s conservatives face an uphill task in next year’s elections, they also debate whether the regime should be a ‘republic’, or based on full clerical rule.

The sorrow state of Iran’s economy has put the conservative-hardliner forces in charge of both the parliament and the president on the back foot prior to parliamentary election next March.

Conservative politician Hossein Kanaani Moghaddam believes that parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and his allies will be among the most serious contestants within the conservative camp in the next election.

Asked how he would describe the configuration of conservative parties in the competition now that there is an all conservative government in Iran, Moghaddam said: The competition dates back to the fundamental difference in Iran's conservative camp between an "Islamic Republic" and an "Islamic government." He said each one of those ideas have their own supporters among conservatives. However, he said that without an Islamic Republic, it is impossible to create an Islamic government.

The Islamic Republic, as it exists and operates today, is based on the idea of the people's rule. However, in practice the Supreme Leader has absolute power. The interventions by Ali Khamenei and his Guardian Council and other centers of power under his control have left very little of the regime's democratic façade.

The idea of Islamic government, on the other hand, which was outlined by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the founder of the Islamic regime in Iran, is based on the idea of the holy Koran being the Constitutional Law of the government. When he came to power, Khomeini spoke very little about his book, The Islamic Government, in which Shiite clerics rather than the members of the parliament should make key decisions.

Conservative politician, Hossein Kanaani Moghaddam

Moghaddam said that a part of the conservative camp in Iran believes in establishing an Islamic government albeit based on their own definition and interests. Another part, he said, maintain that an Islamic government is impossible without an Islamic Republic. In other words, the two groups differ on the role of the people in the government.

In Iran, the late founding father of the ultraconservative Paydari party, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi said on many occasions that the people should have no part in the government and it is God who appoints the country's leaders. He even insisted that the leader's aides are also chosen by God rather than the people.

Moghaddam said that the Paydari Party is following the idea of establishing an Islamic government. He added that the two opposing conservative groups need to come to some sort of accord, otherwise, none of them can survive in Iran's political landscape. He also maintained that prejudiced support for the idea of Islamic government can deter the people and put an end to their support for the government.

Moghaddam himself is one those who believes in the Islamic Republic rather than an Islamic government. By warning about loss of popular support, he distanced himself from Paydari party which holds the majority both in the Majles and in Raisi's government. He further stressed that "talking about an Islamic government in Iran would be a mistake."

Asked how the two conservative groups can resolve this dichotomy, Kanani Moghaddam said: "They need to follow the Supreme Leader, otherwise, insisting on one of the two ideas will intensify factional infighting."

Regarding the status of Ghalibaf's "neo-con" group, he said that it is also one group among many other conservatives including traditional conservatives, moderate conservatives, conservative critics of the government, revolutionary groups and several conservative coalitions.

That degree of diversity among conservatives is healthy, but if their competition leads to conflicts and confrontations, then none of them can claim to represent the conservatives.

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