Analyst Supports Reformist-Principlist Dialogue

Analyst Supports Reformist-Principlist Dialogue Analyst Supports Reformist-Principlist Dialogue

A prominent analyst lent his support to advocates of direct talks between the two main camps in Iranian politics, arguing that dialogue-based settlement of differences between political groups would help the government overcome several challenges it faces inside and outside the country.

Abbas Abdi, a pro-reform political and social theorist, added that political infighting erupting in the wake of the Nov. 12 earthquake once again showed how partisan hostility and sniping create unnecessary conflicts, making it only harder to handle crises.

"In view of such [factional] divisions and tensions, our community won't be able to address ongoing challenges in an effective manner," Abdi told IRNA.

Principlists are staunch believers in the ideological foundations of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, while reformists advocate gradual economic and social changes within the existing system.

The idea had been floated in political circles for a couple of months, with supporters saying the lack of dialogue is to blame for numerous problems, including the unrest after the controversial presidential election in 2009.

The highly antagonistic stance of US President Donald Trump against Iran, evidenced by American officials openly advocating regime change in Iran and Washington struggling to shape a regional front against Iran, has stepped up calls for reconciliation that allows greater unity against foreign threats.

Supporters of national dialogue maintain that serious, face-to-face discussions between reformists and principlists on key sticking points will help them clear up mutual misunderstandings and achieve consensus on common principles within the framework of national interests.

  Quake Controversy

The 7.3 magnitude quake damaged at least 30,000 houses in Iran's western province of Kermanshah, leaving over 440 people dead and thousands injured.

Several reformist figures blamed buildings constructed under Mehr Housing Plan initiated by the principlist-leaning president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2011 for the high number of casualties, claiming corruption in his government had led construction contractors to build low-quality houses that collapsed easily.

On the other side, some principlist politicians criticized the government-led relief effort after the quake, claiming that the reformist-backed administration of centrist President Hassan Rouhani has reacted too slowly to address the urgent needs of thousands of victims made homeless by the disaster.

Abdi said controversies around the Mehr scheme could be a good starting point for deep discussions between the two camps.

The analyst said he believes discussions should better be held publicly and not behind closed doors, as this helps the nation better understand and judge competing visions for the future of the country.

"These talks should be frank and the society should become aware of their content," he said.


  Impossible Dreams

Abdi said principlists and reformists have made attempts to get rid of each other when they were in power, which have "fortunately" failed.

"The historical experience suggests those who have assumed considerable power have sought to eliminate their rivals. But the developments after  2009 proved none of the two will eventually succeed in their attempts," he said.

The 2009 election saw the reelection of Ahmadinejad by an 11-million lead over his nearest rivals. The poll was followed by sporadic street protests in Tehran, after those defeated in the poll, including some reformists, made allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

Reformists say Ahmadinejad and his principlist allies, who saw their grip on the government consolidated after 2009, tried to use their authority to do away with the reformist camp, using as an excuse objections to the election results. The reformist bloc, however, staged a dramatic comeback to the political scene in 2013, when their support for Rouhani was seen as indispensable to the pragmatic cleric's successful electoral bid.

Since then, reformists have made impressive showings in nearly all elections, aided by the lackluster performance of Ahmadinejad whose tenure was mired in deep controversy.

On the other hand, principlists say extremists inside the reformist camp were seeking to drive them out of the political scene after their bloc came to power in the 1997 presidential election.

  Political Maturity

Abdi said leaders in the two groupings ought to demonstrate their political maturity by preaching tolerance and showing their desire for peaceful coexistence.

"I'm of the opinion that reformists represent modernity while principlists represent tradition, both of which are needed in our society," he said.

Reformists enjoy a high voter base in metropolitan areas and among middle classes, while principlists have their powerbase among more traditional sections of the nation and in small towns.

"Each of them has its own leverage. We should note that these leverages cannot replace each other," he said.

Abdi said principlists and reformists need to show in their discussions that they wholeheartedly recognize each other and accept that they can replace hostilities with amicable rivalry.

"They must prove both in words and actions that they no longer dream of eliminating each other," he said.


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