Sprint Long Distance

The Iranian


email us

Sprint Long Distance

Access & Arts

Fly to Iran

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

    News & views

Iran's reformers seek to forge political party

By Jonathan Lyons

TEHRAN, July 20 (Reuters) - Iran's leading reform movement gathered on Thursday to lay the foundation for a true political party that its supporters say could take on the conservative establishment.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front, led by the president's brother Mohammad Reza Khatami, opened its first congress with an ambitious plan to forge a disciplined political machine from its loose network of pro-reform activists.

The two-day-long congress is also to lay out policies and programmes for the coming year and to elect a new leadership.

``We must change ourselves into a political party, a real party. We must change from a party that has plans and policies to a party of real action,'' Khatami told hundreds of Front members.

``Our party should be so strong that it can act as a shadow government to the real government,'' he said.

Khatami lamented the recent closure of 19 pro-reform publications by the hardline judiciary, acknowledging the move had undercut the reform movement.

``Without the press we are unable to communicate with the people as we did before. We have to create new channels of information.''

Iran has no real history of Western-style political factions, with the possible exceptions of the now-disgraced communist Tudeh party and the official, state parties created by the late shah.

In recent years, newspapers have largely acted as surrogate parties.

Khatami said that the Front was created in 1998 as a broad-based movement to attract as many followers as possible and to avoid alienating people traditionally suspicious of party politics.

Organisers were also wary at first of opposition within the clerical establishment, which argued that Iran's Islamic system of government had no need of parties and the factional interests they represented.

``Now it is time for political parties to play their role,'' declared Khatami, the top vote-getter in February's parliamentary elections and a deputy speaker in the legislature.

The move, he said, was crucial to the drive to create civil institutions within the Islamic system that could fend off attacks of the conservatives. His brother, Mohammad Khatami, was elected in a 1997 landslide on just such a platform.

Candidates endorsed by the Participation Front did well in the parliamentary polls, leaving the movement with the biggest single bloc within the chamber. However, the true size of their contingent will only be clear once key issues are brought to a vote.

In the meantime, conservatives have moved decisively to react to their loss of the parliament, closing the pro-reform press and tossing a number of key activists in jail.

On Wednesday, a court called Mohammad Reza Khatami to testify behind closed doors in a case involving several prominent reformers. Charges are also pending against him as publisher of the Front's newspaper, caught up in the newspaper bans.


 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.