Neo-Principlism Strikes Chord With Alarmed Conservatives

Neo-Principlism Strikes Chord With Alarmed ConservativesNeo-Principlism Strikes Chord With Alarmed Conservatives

The idea floated last week by the three-time failed presidential contender, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, about an urgent need for moving toward what he termed as “neo-principlism” has struck a chord with top principlist lawmakers frustrated with a string of electoral defeats.

In an open letter addressing young supporters of the bloc, Qalibaf, the outgoing Tehran Mayor, talked of the need for a fundamental change in “approach and style of politics”.

Many principlist lawmakers have come on board with the plan, apparently out of concerns about what could be in store for the group in future elections. But the idea was also frowned upon by some staunch principlists, particularly those affiliated with the Islamic Revolution’s Resistance Front. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said he agrees a structural reform is needed in the bloc and that old methods that even sidelined some heavyweights should be altered.  Speaking to Hamshahri daily in a recent talk, the lawmaker said principlists need to get in contact with newer generations of the community.

“The Iranian society is getting younger day by day, and it is distancing from the culture dominating the principlist current. This is while many principlists are still using the same traditional language—that is not so mild—to talk with a generation whose preferences and demands are different,” he said.

The legislator said the camp ought to adopt a language that appeals to a wider audience and even voters whose thinking may fly in the face of traditional principlist discourse.

  Time to Restructure

In a veiled criticism of the camp’s leaders, Qalibaf had urged young principlists not to wait for elders to find out why they are down on luck and to engage in self-criticism to tackle the reasons behind the sequence of failures, particularly their defeat in the last presidential race.  

Qalibaf was referring to the harshest in a streak of misfortunes that came in May, when the principlists failed to unseat the centrist President Hassan Rouhani who enjoyed the backing of reformists.

Qalibaf himself was a candidate in the race, like the previous contests in 2005 and 2013, but this time he stepped aside on the eve of elections to boost the campaign of the fellow principlist Ebrahim Raeisi.

The camp has failed to tilt public opinion toward itself in nearly all the votes held since 2013, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the windbreaker-wearing president whose eight-year tenure was mired in deep controversy and was portrayed as a true-blue principlist, left office. Reza Shiran Khorasani said he believes reforms are indispensable for restoring the popularity of the camp and although its fundamental values are unchangeable, methods for promoting these values should be diversified.

“The biggest fault with the principlist bloc is that only elderly figures were in charge of taking decisions, and it narrows the scope [of principlism] while the community is highly diverse”, he told ICANA.

  Need for Fresh Blood

Shiran Khorasani said the decision-making process in the camp needs to be revolutionized, and they need to inject “new blood”.

Although the valuable experience of veteran principlists should be exploited, principlists need to take into account meritocracy and pass the responsibility of making decisions to the competent youth.

This is while Javad Karimi Qoddousi, an Islamic Revolution’s Resistance Front parliamentarian, expressed disbelief about the notion, saying that principlists need no new labels but a strict loyalty to beliefs of principlism.  

“Principlism was defined well as a discourse, but its supporters have failed to bring it into practice correctly and the camp has not yet been able to become the sound political current desired by the Islamic Revolution,” he told ICANA.

Qoddousi said principlists should demonstrate their revolutionary thinking in “words, decisions and actions”.

The “manufactured keywords” could cause divisions in the camp that can be tantamount to a “disaster”, he warned.


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