Several legislators say they approve of direct talks between reformists and principlists, as the idea floated in political circles after the May reelection of President Hassan Rouhani is gaining traction.
Lawmaker Abdolreza Hashemzaei said frank and serious discussions between the two groups in Iranian politics will greatly help promote national interests, as such talks will allow them to clear up mutual misunderstandings and achieve consensus on common principles.
“Fundamental disagreements between principlist and reformist factions must not pose problems for advancing national interests,” he told ICANA.
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.
Reformists enjoy a high voter base in metropolitan areas and among the middle classes, while principlists have their powerbase among more traditional sections of the nation and in small towns.
Hashemzaei said the two blocs should avoid sacrificing Iran’s economic development to win partisan votes.
“Principlists and reformists who have come closer to the center [of the political spectrum] in recent years ought to engage in dialogue to reach a shared definition of national interests, foreign policy, national security and other issues that impact economic development,” he said.
The reelection of the reformist-leaning Rouhani, seen as the latest in a string of electoral victories for reformists, was the most overwhelming evidence suggesting the bloc has regained its national status.
The reformist bloc 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 Rouhani’s predecessor whose tenure was mired in deep controversy.
The reformist victories came after being on the sideline for years, since what they describe as attempts by his principlist allies to use their authority to do away with the reformist camp, using as an excuse objections to the 2009 election results that led to sporadic street protests.
But principlists are not the only side who stands accused of attempting to get rid of political rivals.
Principlists say extremists inside the reformist camp were seeking to drive them out of politics after their bloc came to power in the 1997 presidential election.
Supporters of reformist-principlist talks argue that the lack of dialogue is to blame for attempts at eliminating the rivals and many other problems.
They believe the political infighting erupting in the wake of the Nov. 12 earthquake in Iran’s western province of Kermanshah was the latest evidence how partisan hostility and sniping create unnecessary conflicts, making it only harder to handle crises.
In the aftermath of the quake, government backers blamed state-built houses constructed under the previous principlist administration for the high number of casualties, while principlist politicians criticized the government-led relief effort after the quake for being too slow.
The quake controversy prompted more and more figures to support reformist-principlist talks, arguing that dialogue-based settlement of differences between political groups would help the government overcome several challenges it faces inside and outside the country.
Lawmaker Qasem Mirzaei Nekou said he is pleased that prominent political figures are lending support to advocates of direct talks, as he believes this is the only way to end a myriad of misunderstandings.
“The ground is now prepared for national dialogue … as many principlist and reformist figures have moderated their positions compared to recent years,” he told ICANA on Friday.
“All those who are concerned about the country’s difficult conditions, including issues such as [low] investment, [international] sanctions, JCPOA and internal problems such as social ills need to enter into dialogue,” he said, using an abbreviation that stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the 2015 landmark nuclear pact.
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 ditch the 2015 nuclear deal, has stepped up calls for reconciliation that allows greater unity against foreign threats. Mahmoud Sadeqi, another lawmaker, said although the two camps have key sticking points, they have strong similarities that could provide the base for talks.
The MP said reformists and principlists would do well to replace hostility with friendly rivalry.
“Reformists and principlists could open talks over how to reach goals both of them pursue, like fighting corruption,” he said.