Iran reformers make bid for parliament leadership
By Mehrdad Balali
TEHRAN, May 31 (Reuters) - Liberal allies of President Mohammad Khatami
said on Wednesday they would mount a fresh challenge for leadership of
Iran's new parliament after an initial loss to veteran revolutionaries.
``We will definitely take over part of the leadership after the vote
for a permanent presiding board,'' an aide to Mohammad Reza Khatami, the
president's brother, told Reuters.
``(Mohammad Reza) Khatami has a 90 percent chance of becoming deputy
speaker of parliament,'' he said.
Khatami, who heads the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the
leading reformist movement, was the biggest vote- winner in Tehran and
other big cities and was tipped to take an important post in the new assembly.
But parliament on Tuesday elected two Old Guard revolutionaries and
clerics -- Mehdi Karroubi and Majid Ansari -- as interim speaker and his
first deputy, ignoring demands from the IIPF and its allies for a younger
and fresher representation.
``The traditional model does not guarantee social growth. There is a
need for young and little-known faces to run affairs,'' said one pro-reform
MP, Ahmad Pournejati.
REFORMISTS AVOID DISCORD
Mohammad Reza Khatami had earlier said his group had chosen to keep
a low profile to avert division within the reformist alliance and prevent
possible gains by the minority conservative camp.
But newspapers on Wednesday quoted him as saying his group might mount
a fresh challenge in a little over a week.
``We will evaluate the performance of the temporary presiding board.
In the meantime, we will try for a single list within the reformist camp,''
Parliament is widely expected to help consolidate President Khatami's
reform programme, stumbling in the face of hardline opposition.
But the pace of reform to be followed by the assembly will not be known
until members vote on key issues.
Although the new chamber has a generally reformist tendency, members
differ on the degree of commitment to democracy and loyalty to the 1979
Karroubi, once an aide to the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini, and his alliance of leftist clerics favour change within revolutionary
But the younger reformers represented by the IIPF seek a more flexible
approach to cultural and political issues to keep pace with the modern
The two groups led a successful battle by the pro-reform camp to throw
out a conservative majority from parliament.
But differences grew after the polls, mainly over the choice of the
chamber's leadership and the pace of reform.
The IIPF virtually pulled out of the race for the top posts after Karroubi's
group was alleged to have contravened an accord on a common list, taking
interests of all sides into account.
IIPF had yielded on the choice of Karroubi as speaker, a position he
held from 1989 to 1992, but sought to take over two other top posts as
The initial choice for the parliament's leadership drew criticism from
other reformist deputies, including Hadi Khamenei, half-brother of supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
``I do not agree with the choice of the temporary leadership. It was
done hastily and does not reflect public demands,'' he said.