While Iranian conservatives aim to sideline reformists in the March 2024 parliamentary elections, there is a lack of consensus among them on many political issues.
The upcoming election, following a year of dissent and unrest, has left most voters indifferent, disheartened by disillusionment. There's a lack of clarity even among conservatives and hardliners about the number of seats they aim to secure. For instance, the Islamic Coalition Party intends to nominate 400 candidates for the 290 Majles seats, reflecting the overall apathy towards the election.
Hardline Conservatives have repeatedly said that they are keen to win the entire parliament, and reformists and moderates have often complained that the system does not allow them to run for the Majles or Presidency.
Although ultraconservative Paydari Party is doing everything to win the majority, Hamid Reza Taraqqi, a leading member of the Islamic Coalition Party said in an interview with Khabar Online that five different conservative coalitions have been formed ahead of the elections.
To make the situation look even more complicated for observers and the conservatives aiming for a full power grab, Taraqqi added that these five coalitions represent 10 different narratives. The main narrative, however, is to turn the Iranian political landscape into an all-conservative playground. All other sub-narratives try to prove that there are individual parties such as Paydari, which favor a non-elected Islamic government rather than the current Islamic Republic, or coalitions such as Sharian (Persian acronym for the Strategic Network of Friends of the Islamic Revolution) that wish to monopolize political power and financial privilege in Iran.
Sharian, led by Roads and Transportation Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash and former lawmaker Hamid Rasaei, seems to serve as an alternative route to the Majles for Paydari should their pro-Russia stance or lack of results in the current parliament render them unelectable.
Another group led by ex-Paydari politicians, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his aides Esfandiar Rahim Mashai and Hamid Baqaei is aiming to contest the Majles. Ahmadinejad himself is apparently preparing to run for the 2025 Presidential election. He has recently been criticizing the government's policy on hijab and purging dissident university professors.
Besides these three ultraconservative groups, there is Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf's neo-con group, moderate conservative Ali Larijani, former Speaker, with his own list of candidates, and the traditional conservative Islamic Coalition Party. Disputes arise due to the refusal of these groups, except for the moderate-conservatives possibly joining reformists, to entertain power-sharing or compromise, adhering to the all-or-none approach within Iran's conservative camp.
This inflexible view leads to conflicts among the six groups. Differences between figures like veteran politician Haddad Adel and Bazrpash are evident. Additionally,
a report by the centrist Ham Mihan newspaper, which was also carried by many Iranian websites, indicates fierce competition between Ghalibaf and Bazrpash over who is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's favorite. According to Ham Mihan, three months ago Ghalibaf warned other conservatives not to mudsling against him as he was Khamenei's favorite.
And all this is happening while critics and even some insiders say that the Majles has lost its authority as most major decisions on domestic and foreign policies are made or endorsed by the heads of the three powers or the Expediency Council. Only 290 seats of debatable importance for so many parties and groups remind one of the Persian proverbs, "One raisin to feed 40 vagabond dervishes."