As outlined earlier this week in IranPolitik, there have been numerous signs in the last several weeks that the Reformist faction, moderates led by ex-president Mohammad Khatami who ruled between 1997-2005, may nominate a candidate for the upcoming 2013 presidential election. The Reformists were marginalized within the regime’s political establishment because of their role in leading the 2009-2010 Green Movement. By renouncing the Green Movement and participating in elections, the Reformists now hope to re-enter mainstream Iranian politics and ultimately regain power. However as highlighted here in the same article, regime hardliners associated with the upper echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have also sent signals that they would move to block any Reformist maneuvering to re-enter power.
Khatami returns to centre stage?
There are now new signs validating this hypothesis. In a meeting with supporters from Isfahan today, ex-president Khatami criticized the system and admitted that Iran’s current situation is not good. Comparing the country’s current predicament to the period under Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), Khatami said that the difference between then and now is the sense of “hopelessness” today among the people. This is a bold statement by Khatami given that under the Islamic Republic nearly everything from the Pahlavi era is condemned and viewed negatively. Khatami however did hasten to add that he didn’t think the current sense of despair and dissatisfaction in Iran will bring about another revolution because, according to him, Islam is at the heart of society and people don’t want the regime to be overthrown. He claimed that even those who are not religious do not favour foreign intervention and the toppling of the regime.
In staking out the position of his faction, Khatami said that Reformists believe the regime should not be overthrown, and that if they insist on reforming the regime it is only to preserve it:
“I do not believe that this regime should be overthrown and no such thing should happen. We are extremely against the overthrow of the regime. Such a thing, by the grace of God, will not happen. We are in agreement with the core of the regime, Imam [Ruhollah Khomeini], and the Islamic Republic, but we have criticisms of current methods and policies.”
IRGC labels Khatami “radical”, says he must be purged
The IRGC’s deputy commander of cultural affairs Hamid-Reza Moghadam-Far cast severe doubt over whether the Reformists would be able to successfully compete in the 2013 presidential election, saying that because of their participation in the 2009-2010 Green Movement and the actions of their radical members (allegedly led by Khatami) they have been discredited in the eyes of the people.
Moghadam-Far said that Reformists today are acting like opposition groups in the first decade after the Islamic Revolution when supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini still ruled Iran. Because of the “treason” of these groups (referring to their opposition to some of the Islamic Republic’s policies and practices) they were rejected by the people and Khomeini. He said that the Reformists’ treason against the regime in 2009 (i.e. supporting the Green Movement) was worse than the actions of these groups in the first decade after the revolution, and that Reformists would be rejected as well. Addressing Khatami and “radical Reformists”, Moghadam-Far said that:
“It is surprising that today the radical part of this current has very rudely announced its participation for the  presidential election and some of them are even setting conditions for the regime.”
He concluded that the reformists are no longer popular and are a spent political force. He also posited that the regime might show kindness to moderate Reformists and allow them back into the fold if they denounce the radicals in their midst (referring to Khatami and the Green Movement) for acting treasonously.
Editor’s note: The early signs do not bode well for the Reformists. Will their nominee for Iran’s presidency be approved by the Guardian Council? Will they ally themselves with ex-president Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and his faction and potentially endorse a non-Reformist compromise candidate? If they do participate, will voters support them? Finally, even if they can achieve an electoral victory in 2013, could we see a repeat of 2009 as early signals from the IRGC indicate? As the 2013 Iranian presidential election campaign begins and Reformist-IRGC tensions unfold, IranPolitik will bring you the latest.