Source: Mehr News , Date: 03 September 2011
In a very extensive interview with Mehr News, veteran representative and Deputy Speaker of the Majlis Mohammad-Reza Bahonar has shed further light on the increasingly acrimonious conflict inside the Principalist faction. Among other things, Bahonar strongly criticized the track record of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters who he labeled ‘extremist Principalists’:
“One of the problems that we have with these extremists among the Principalists is that they want to search door to door for the 13 million people who voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi and wipe them from the pages of history. I do not accept this kind of approach. The Supreme Leader of the Revolution [referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] in his first commentary [on the elections] spoke of 40 million votes and in no way divided the people’s votes. On the other hand some are out to discover each and every one of these 13 million votes. In some instances, they have even stepped beyond this and accused individuals who voted for Mr. Ahmadinejad of lying, and claim that they did not vote for Ahmadinejad.”
When asked by Mehr reporters if he had sympathies toward the Reformist faction, Bahonar responded by saying that:
“I have repeatedly stated that I did not vote for Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi but rather Mohsen Rezaei.”
He then went on to criticize extremist Principalists for their hardline position against anyone who has failed to condemn the Reformists and the leadership of the Green Movement protests since 2009:
“For example, during the Eighth Majlis [Iran’s legislative session between 2008 and 2012] we managed the Majlis in the manner we deemed appropriate and did not seek to provoke the Reformists, but these individuals [extremist Principalists] have translated this to mean that we’re intimate with the Reformists…These were the same individuals who called for the execution of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi…I should emphasize that this group is plagued by a disease. What I mean is that we tried to tell these people in every way possible that the regime did not deem it fit they [Mousavi and Karroubi] should be arrested- their response was that if you also shout slogans in the Majlis against the heads of the sedition [the regime’s terminology for the Green Movement], the regime has no choice but to arrest them.”
The Mehr reporters then queried Bahonar on whether he believed there were deep divisions within the Principalist faction such that it should now be seen as being divided between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ Principalists. Though he initially refuted these claims, his subsequent statements confirmed that deep divisions do, in fact, exist:
“Some [referring to extremist Principalists] believe that Principalists who were active in the past must exit the [political] stage- unfortunately every President and Speaker of the Majlis who comes to power has a deep-seated desire to erase the record of the past. I believe the country cannot be governed in this way. It’s disturbing that our president claims nothing was done in this country before the ninth administration [referring to Ahmadinejad’s first term in office].”
Editor’s note: This interview is remarkable because Bahonar is a veteran of Iranian politics and the Principalist faction, having participated in all but the first (1980-1984) and the sixth (2000-2004) sessions of the Majlis. In recognition of his stature in the political arena, he has been appointed a member of the Principalist Unity Committee, a body which aims to coordinate the Principalists strategy for the 2012 Majlis election. He has played a very active role in attempting to conceal the deepening rifts among the Principalists in the run-up to the election. The trend of increasingly scathing statements made by Bahonar in the media against “extremist Principalists”, and the campaign to actively counter-attack him in leading newspapers such as Kayhan, is further affirmation of how just far the divide between traditional and new Principalists has grown. Bahonar’s comments also show this chasm did not open with the 2009 presidential election crisis- but may go as far back as the beginning of Ahmadinejad’s administration in 2005.
The Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution, a pro-Ahmadinejad election committee, has been at the center of the effort to polarize Principalists before the 2012 election and weaken the presence of Ahmadinejad’s critics in the next Majlis, particularly those perceived to be sympathetic towards Reformists and the Pragmatist Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. As we’ve explained before, it appears that the creation of the Persevering Front meant that the Principalist Unity Committee was dead on arrival, and its mission of ‘Principalist unity’ a hopeless prospect.