Conservative Iran MP: Reformists Win Only in ‘Free Elections’

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Traditional conservative politician Ali Motahhari, who is known for being particularly outspoken in Iran, talked about the possible performance of Reformists in future parliamentary elections, the controversy over keeping the nuclear talks confidential and the positive role hard-liners can play in the negotiations.

“If the elections are completely free and the Reformist candidates are not disapproved [by the Guardian Council] and participation is high, normally the Reformists win,” said Motahhari to the Islamic Consultive Assembly News Agency, believing that the Guardian Council will not now allow the conservatives to lose in future political elections. He continued, “Conservatives are victorious normally under conditions in which effective Reformist candidates are disapproved, and consequently, the participation of the people is low. Under these conditions, conservatives win such political competitions.”

Elections for the ninth parliament were held on March 2012. Given the controversy over the contested 2009 elections and the continued house arrest of the two Reformist candidates, many Reformists did not run in the last elections, leaving the parliament seats open to competition mostly between traditional conservatives and hard-liners.

Motahhari said, “Reformists should be happy that [President Hassan] Rouhani’s administration has arrived and the previous environment is gone, and they should help this administration to improve conditions in the country.” He added, “The majority of Reformists, due to their experience the last 16 years, are now inclined toward moderation. They feel that extremism from both the conservatives and Reformists will not achieve results. Therefore, many Reformists have joined the moderate discourse, so I see it as unlikely that they will have problems with this administration.”

Former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami supported Rouhani for the presidency, and former members of his cabinet have joined the Rouhani administration. However, some of the more outspoken and daring Reformists from the first few years of Khatami’s administration have been sidelined, exiled or imprisoned.

In regard to the recent controversy inside Iran about keeping the nuclear negotiations with the five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) confidential, Motahhari said, “In my view, keeping the details of the negotiations between Iran and the West confidential is wise, but people need to be aware of what concessions we are giving to the West.”

Motahhari views the domestic pressure on Iran’s negotiating team as a positive development, because it may result in more concessions from the West. He said, “Statements from those opposed will cause the Western countries to feel that that the Iranian side is under domestic pressure. As a result, they will understand the current situation much better. Therefore, certainly in such a case the Iranian negotiation team can more easily get more concessions from the West.”

Motahhari is optimistic about the negotiations because he believes that in the last few years, Iran has made many nuclear accomplishments and its influence in the region has grown. Therefore, this provides an opportunity to reach agreement on many issues.