Iran is about to see a political upheaval in its reformists camp that may affect the upcoming parliamentary elections in February, after the comments voiced by a top leader in the centrist Executives of Construction Party (ECP), Radio Farda reported on August 13th.
In his interview with the party's organ Sazandegi newspaper, Secretary-General Gholam Hossein Karbaschi criticised the disorganisation in the reformist camp and former president Mohammad Khatami's ineffective role as the leader, saying it lacks leadership: “The reform movement does not need a new leader. It basically needs a leader.”
The shocking remarks brought about a media glare that made party spokesman Mohammad Atrianfar rush to deny the viral reports, saying that "the interpretation of Karbaschi's comment was not true."
Iranian media took Karbaschi's comment as the pronouncement of an end to the Executives of Construction as one of the pillars of Iran's reform movement.
Iran's reformist political faction seems to have split as one of the groups constituting its backbone has officially pulled out of the lose-knit political force, Radio Farda said.
Karbaschi, former mayor of Tehran and an associate of the former president, the influential Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, called for forming a "National Election Headquarters for Reformists” amidst the absence of a "proper organisation" in the reform movement.
In a parallel line with Karbaschi’s perspective, many reformists, including the leader of the reform faction at the Majles (parliament), Mohammad Reza Aref, have said that they are unhappy about the reform camp's performance in the previous round of Majles elections in 2016, when many MPs who won the election on a reformist platform later joined the conservative faction.
Activists and media outlets have bestowed the title of “reformist” on Khatami, although he himself has never acknowledged his role in the reform movement as official leader.
In the interview, Karbaschi has called for the reconstruction of the reform camp, adding that, "Reformist groups do like Mr. Khatami but this does not mean that they have agreed on his role as the leader of the reform camp."
The ECP secretary general highlighted the incompetence of reformists to occupy political positions in Iran despite backing President Hassan Rouhani to win presidential elections in 2017.
Just one executive of the ECP, vice-president Es'haq Jahangiri holds a position in Rouhani’s administration. However, he has announced in a separate press interview that he doesn’t have full authority to change his own secretary and even that he is marginalised by some of Rouhani’s entourage.
The probable pull-out of the ECP from collaboration with the reformists is expected to undermine the movement’s success in February, as the party includes an experienced group of technocrats. Reformists are already becoming a source of disappointment to the public, according to one of Khatami’s statements.
Centrist political commentator Sadeq Zibakalam in a Tweet on Tuesday criticised both Karbaschi and Khatami for their political behaviour. He wrote, "I can understand the Executives of Construction Party's pull-out from the reform camp, although it is a bitter development. Karbaschi and Marashi [another party leader] are not the only ones who have been disappointed by Khatami's inaction. But one should ask these gentlemen, is withdrawal from reform camp the right choice?"