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Leftists launch first real political party

Iran Weekly Press Digest
August 2, 1999

Iranian leftists proclaimed Monday that they will launch the first real political party in Iran's history. The Islamic Labour Party (ILP) will be the first political party which will be formed in Iran with the initiative of the Labour House and labour syndicates, Labour House Secretary General and main founder of the ILP, Ali-Reza Mahjub, told reporters in Tehran.

"The party will be officially formed after the labour congress (in mid August) and it will initially have 300 members which is later to be increased by another 500," Mahjub, who is also a MP, said. Soheyla Jelodarzadeh, a female MP and a renowened leftist activist, said that the ILP will not only be formed to defend the rights of the labourers in Iran but also to participate in the country's political power structure.

"With more than 20 million labourers or people related to labourers, and with one third of them eligible to vote, we have the necessary popular potential to participate in the country's political power structure," Jelodarzadeh, who is believed to play a major role in the ILP, said.

She added that with the ILP taking power in the years to come, the party would also push the president to allocate more ministers in the cabinet. The leftists faction is formed of members of the Labour House and the labour syndicate as well as the members of the MRM, a clergy organisation opposed to the conservative traditional clergy.

The two leftist groupings, together with the moderate faction, have supported President Mohammad Khatami in gaining his landslide victory in the 1997 presidential elections and later formed the leftist- moderate government coalition. But in the more than 20 ministerial portfolios, only 3 are allocated to the leftists and the rest are moderates.

The ILP is believed to have the intention to change the cabinet structure but at the same time support and consolidate the reform policies by Khatami. The ILP will also have a wide-spread participation in February's parliamentary elections, which are believed to play a major impact on the future political structure of the country, especially if the pro- Khatami candidates succeed to break the seven-year-long legislative dominance of the conservatives.

The party system in Iran has so far failed - both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution - to play the desired role as in the Western countries and according to Mahjub, "they are in the embryo phase and have so far had a rocket-like start and a very much unrocket-like continuance".

The ILP intends to change this trend, he said. "At the beginning it is inevitable that there will be numerous parties, but the popular and political resonance will later determine which parties will eventually stay and play an active role in politics," Jelodarzadeh said.

The ILP is also expected to put more pressure on conservatives. "ILP is looking for a coalition with factions close to President Khatami for the sixth Majlis (parliament) elections to be held in February," Mahjub said. "We cannot claim to have effective role in political affairs of the country, but our expectation is that we would have a large number of members and many supporters throughout Iran," Mahjub added.

"We cannot say that how many candidates we would have for the forthcoming Majlis elections while we have not achieved any specific results of our negotiations with leftist factions," Tajeddin, another ILP member and MP for Isfahan said.

Regarding amendment of press law, Jelodarzadeh said we are against the plan but first the laws should be fully implemented in practice as a look at all newspapers make everybody easily realise that the press does not consider the law. At the present time there are two parties, The Islamic Participation Party and Constructive Servants (G6), that have however no major role in the national policies.

Observers wonder whether this party can have an effective role on Iran's political arena and fulfil their claim./-


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