A scene from the Iranian parliament in 2023

Who Benefits from Infighting Among Iran's Ultraconservatives?

Wednesday, 05/15/2024

The media, politicians, and pundits are divided on the outcome of the May 10 runoff election for the Iranian parliament and the distribution of its 290 seats in the Majles among the hardliners.

After establishing total control over the parliament by banning hundreds of other candidates, Iran’s hardliners are now engaged in fierce infighting, in what some observers call rivalry over power, money and influence.

Some argue that the infighting will not yield any clear winner, while others believe Iran's embattled ‘reform’ camp might benefit from the fierce competition among ultraconservatives, who still call themselves revolutionaries 45 years after Iran's largely forgotten 1979 revolution.

Meanwhile, the nation at large appeared indifferent to the entire affair, with various sources reporting a turnout of only 4 to 8 percent in the runoff election. The public nearly ignored the election and sees little significance in the infighting among the ultraconservatives poised to take over the inefficient parliament in less than a month.

Mohammad Javad Jamali Nobandegani, a conservative politician says there will be no winners in the infighting. He describes the ongoing conflict as a struggle between the younger members of the ultraconservative Paydari (Steadfastness) party and even younger "revolutionaries" who secured their seats in parliament through a campaign led by young conservative regime propagandist Ali Akbar Raefipour.

Young ultrahardline politician Ali Akbar Raefipour

Both Paydari members and the supporters of Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf have accused Raefipour of financial corruption and leading social media trolls to attack his political rivals, mainly on X.

Raefipour, on the other hand, has accused his political rivals of unethical campaigning against him. While Raefipour claims that nine of the candidates on his list have won the runoff election, others argue that none of the individuals won solely because of his support. The nine candidates were also promoted by Paydari Party.

Nobandegani told Nameh News that all radical politicians over the past 45 years have deviated from the orthodox Islamic revolution. He accused radical politicians of having very little, if any, political awareness and charged that young ultraconservatives know no boundaries in their mudslinging against political rivals.

He described the ultraconservatives' behavior as undemocratic and warned all sides that tarnishing their rivals' image will not boost their own reputation. On the contrary, it will deepen public disappointment and further lower voter turnout in the next elections. Both sides will be destroyed, he reiterated.

Nameh News warned in a commentary that reformist politicians are likely to ride the waves of discord among conservatives and become popular with the public.

The website noted that it is interesting how all sides, including Ghalibaf's camp, Paydari, and Raefipour with his young revolutionaries, claim to be pioneering a new brand of conservatism in Iran. However, what the public sees is their infighting and the corruption allegations they hurl at each other.

This, the website argued, will erode public trust in all politicians. The only potential winners might be the reformists, who can portray themselves as moderates among radicals.

Meanwhile, a moderate conservative commentator Mehdi Arab Sadeq has suggested that behind the scenes of the fierce infighting within the conservative camp, the Paydari Party appears to be trying to highlight the government's failures and further its own political agenda to take over the Majles and the government.

The Tehran University academic noted that while the new lawmakers are predominantly conservative, it is still too early to determine who holds the upper hand in parliament. Amid the initial chaos, Paydari members, many of whom have previously served in the Majles, are capitalizing on the new MPs' lack of experience to assert control over the parliament.

However, he added that Paydari's inherent weaknesses will become apparent in the coming months if their primary strategy is to fan the flames of discord and infighting. Despite these weaknesses, they may still manage to wrest control from President Raisi and advance their own political agenda.

More News