Political parties in Iran
Only candidates and parties that do not oppose the religious system of the governance (Velayate faqih) can participate in elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is enforced by the clerical Guardian Council which vets candidates.
Offices open to election on a national level in the Islamic Republic include, the president, the parliament (or Majlis), and an Assembly of Experts (which elects the Supreme Leader of Iran). After the banning of the last two Opposition parties in 1983, parties and candidates usually have operated in loose alignments within two main coalitions, the conservative (osool-garayan) and the reformist (eslah-talaban) both of them coming from the former single-party Islamic Republic Party. Since 2009, only the conservatives have been allowed to participate and prominent reformist parties have been banned and their members jailed.
- 1 Parties inside Iran
- 2 Opposition parties active in exile
- 2.1 Generality
- 2.2 History
- 2.3 Names and websites of the Opposition
- 2.3.1 The Communists
- 2.3.2 The Socialists/Social-Democrats
- 2.3.3 The Muslim-Democrats
- 2.3.4 The Liberal-Democrats/Nationalists
- 2.3.5 The Anti-Islamic Nationalists
- 2.3.6 Ethnic nationalist parties
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Parties inside Iran
These parties can operate inside the Islamic regime. Until 2010 two groupings functioned: the Conservatives (extremist and ultra-religious right-wing parties) and the Reformists (moderate religious right-wing parties). As of 2011[update] only the Conservative parties can carry out political and cultural activities inside Iran.
- Modern Thinkers Party of Islamic Iran: secretary-general Amir Mohebbian
- Islamic Society of Engineers: secretary-general Mohammad Reza Bahonar
- Combatant Clergy Association: secretary-general Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani
- Islamic Coalition Party: secretary-general Habibollah Asgaroladi (the main party)
- Association of Islamic Revolution Loyalists: secretary-general Hassan Ghafurifard
- Moderation and Development Party: secretary-general Mohammad Baqer Nobakht
- Coalition of Iran's Independent Volunteers: spokesman Emad Afruq
- Iranian Nation's Welfare Party: secretary-general Khalil Ali Mohammadzadeh
- Islamic Iran Participation Front: secretary-general Mohsen Mirdamadi (banned in June 2010)
- National Trust Party: secretary-general Mehdi Karroubi (banned in 2009)
- Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization: secretary-general Mohammad Salamati (banned in June 2010)
- Executives of Construction Party: secretary-general Gholamhossein Karbaschi
- Association of Combatant Clerics: secretary-general Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha
- Democracy Party: secretary-general Mostafa Kavakebian
- Society of Forces Following the Line of the Imam: secretary-general Hadi Khamenei
- Islamic Labour Party: secretary-general Abolqasem Sarhadizadeh
- Workers' House: secretary-general Alireza Mahjub
- Iran Solidarity Party: secretary-general Ebrahim Asgharzadeh
- Freedom Party of Iran: secretary-general Majid Mohtashami
Opposition parties active in exile
Notability of these parties
There are about 64 political parties outside Iran (they fled the Islamist Regime).
Only 4 are active (they hold congresses every two years, have newspapers, have an official website, have more than 500 members in several countries around the world) :
- the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran of Maryam Rajavi, (Religious Left)
- the National Front of Iran (Jebhe-ye Melli) of Adib Boroumand, (Liberal Nationalist)
- the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat) of Foad Pashaee, (Liberal Nationalist)
- the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority) of Behrouz Khaligh (Socialist)
see also List of political parties in Iran.
The rest of the Opposition is insignificant : they are rather tiny clubs of individuals than political parties and do not influence the political arena of Iran. But 10 of them are of some importance :
- The Tudeh Party of Iran and the Communist Party of Iran (of Ebrahim Alizadeh), which were important parties in the past, exist today in a very anemic state. The Tudeh Party was the greatest party in the entire Iranian history : their influence in the 1940s and 1950s was never again achieved by other political parties afterwards. It was severely damaged, at first, by the secret services of the Shah regime and, next, by the Islamic Republic which tortured and killed their most prominent members (almost all the Central Committee). Although the Soviet Union helped them to reconstitute their forces in Afghanistan and in Eastern Europe, they never recovered. The Tudeh Party was almost dead in the final years of the Soviet Union and lost the majority of their remaining members as some were excluded (they formed the Rahe Tudeh faction), some founded another party called the People's Democratic Party (which does not exist anymore) and many died of natural causes. As for the Communist Party of Iran, it was the most important communist party of Iran in the 1980s thanks to thousands of members and a real influence in the Iranian Kurdistan. The Party fought against the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and lost hundreds of their members in the fighting. It was badly hit by the several splits : the majority, led by Mansoor Hekmat, left to found the Worker-Communist Party. Then, the majority of the remaining members left to found the Komala Party. Its headquarters is located in the Iraqi Kurdistan.
- Worker-Communist Party of Iran was formerly powerful and led by the charismatic Mansoor Hekmat. In 2000, the party was considered the most important left-wing party of the Iranian Opposition, whereas this role was kept by the Tudeh in the 1950s, the Fadaian guerillas in the 1970s, the Communist Party in the 1980s and the Rahe Kargar in the 1990s. But they split into three rival and weak parties 1 after their leader died in 2002. Among the three parties the Worker-Communist Party of Iran-Hekmatist keeps half of the original members. The three parties do not cooperate with each other and frequently publish articles against one another. Thanks to theses splits and defections, the most important left-wing party is now the Fadaian-Majority (around 400 members outside Iran).
- National Resistance Movement of Iran (NAMIR) of Shapour Bakhtiar, the Party of the Iranian Nation (PIN) of Darius and Parvaneh Foroohar and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK) of Abdul Rahman Qassemloo, although prominent parties in the past, have almost been destroyed with the killings of their charismatic leaders by the Islamic Republic. The NAMIR and PIN have almost ceased to exist, whereas the DPIK has managed to continue its activities (thanks to the Iraqi Kurdistan government's help). In December 2006, the DPIK split another time into two groups. Along the Communist Party, it used to have a real influence in the Iranian Kurdistan in the 1980s.
- The Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar) has isolated itself by rejecting joint actions or even dialogue with non-communist parties (they do not have a good relation even with some socialist/communist parties deemed not too radical or "traitor" like the Tudeh Party or the Fadaian-Majority). The Party split into two rival groups in August 2009. It used to be one of the most active left-wing party in the 1990s but, the 2009 split, on the one hand, and the death of a number of their ageing members, on the other hand, has weakend it.
- The Kurdish social-democratic Komala (not to be confused with the communist Komalah with an h), although an important party, can't be classified among the four powerful party of the Opposition cited above since its modest activities are only concentrated in the kurdish-inhabited provinces of Iran. Furthermore Komala split into two parties in August 2007.
- The Union of People's Fedaian of Iran has been designated as the twin sister of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority (OIPF-M) but has far fewer members. They are trying to merge with the Fedaian-Majority to create a strong left-wing party.. Although very little by size, they keep holding congresses every two years and publish an online newspaper.
- The Freedom Party of Iran used to be the most influential party in the first year of the 1979 revolution; they even formed the first government at that time. They has now become extinct. Their website is no longer available, their last remaining members are jailed, dead, murdered or exiled. This party has always been a party with low membership but its ideology was prominent in the first years of the revolution. Along the Tudeh Party, it belongs to ancient parties with a brilliant past but a bleak future, especially because of their very low young members.
These 64 parties can be divided into 6 ideological branches from left to right :
- Communists (20 parties; the most important: the two factions of the Rahe kargar)
- Socialists and Social-Democrats (6 parties; the most important: Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority)
- Ethnic nationalists (24 parties; the main one: the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan)
- Muslim-Democrats (5 parties; mainly the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran)
- Liberal-Democrats & Secular Nationalists (6 parties; mainly the National Front of Iran and the Constitutionalist Party of Iran)
- Anti-Islamic Nationalists (3 parties)
Before the year 2003, a lot of parties tried to form a coalition against the Islamic regime and failed. Only two unions succeeded; but even them - which are the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the Workers Left Unity - Iran - are just alliances of two parties : the religious-leftist People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran and the marxist Organization of Iranian People Fadaee Guerillas for the first one and the Iranian fedaian communist league and the Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar) for the latter.
In 2003 the Democratic People's Party of Iran of Babak Amirkhosravi (a separated fraction of the communist Tudeh party), the Iranian National Republicans of Hassan Shariatmadari, son of the late Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, and the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority created the United Republicans of Iran (URI), a federation of three pro-republican parties. Over one thousand persons took part in the inauguration of the URI in Berlin.
At the same time, in Paris, the Union of People's Fedaian of Iran, the Organization of Iranian Socialists and the Provisional Council of Iranian Left Socialists created another alliance named the Democratic and Secular Republicans of Iran (DSRI).
Both the URI and the DSRI failed to merge and, over time, have lost the majority of their adherents (especially the URI as a separated faction created another group called the Organization of the Republicans of Iran).
Moreover, since September 2005 a greater spectrum of these exiled parties who used to be very divided (even among groups of similar philosophies) have begun to talk. Reza Pahlavi had dinner in Berlin with some of the leftists who had helped to overthrow his father, and it generated outrage on both the left and the right.
For the first time, a Republican (the late spokesman of the National Front of Iran) Parviz Varjavand wrote in an article in August 2006 that Democracy is compatible with both a Constitutional Monarchy and a Republic and that the issue should not be between Constitutional Monarchy and Republic. The Green Party of Iran led by Kayvan Koboli said the same thing months before Parviz Varjavand. Heshmat Raeisi, ex-member of the Central Committee of both the Fedai and the Tudeh Party, participated in the sixth Congress of the (monarchist) Constitutionalist Party of Iran in November 2006 and gave a speech; in February 2007 Dariush Homayoun of the rightist Constitutionalist Party of Iran wrote a friendly letter to the major leftist party (the OIPFG (M)). Jamshid Taheripoor of the latter party answered.
After the project of uniting republicans" (=thus excluding those who favored a constitutional monarchy), dissidents created at the same time two new organizations whose ideology was not "republicanism" (as it failed) but "secularism".
Both the Global Network of Iranian Green Seculars or GNIGS (  ) and the Union for Advancement of Secular Democracy in Iran or UASDI (  ) were set up independently in 2010. The first one has roughly 500 members whereas the latter has 100 members.
They talked to merge during 2011 but failed, as the GNIGS has ruled out working with the Islamic Reformists deemed Islamist whereas the UASDI thinks secular democracy can only be achieved with the help of the Reformists.
The GNIGS is close to ethnic parties like the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, constitutional monarchists like the Constitutional Party of Iran and other parties which seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The UASDI is attempting to talk to the Reformists and organizations such as the Union of Republicans of Iran that believe the Islamic Republic can still be reformed from within.
A new union of 40 parties et associations (such as the Pan-Iranist Party and the Constitutionnalist Party) seeking the overthrow of the regime called the National Council of Iran (  ) was created in April 2013 in Paris and Prince Reza Pahlavi was chosen as the spokesman of this organization. The National Council of Iran (Showraye Melliye Iran) has the ambition to represent an alternative to the Islamic Republic and become the most vocal Opposition group.
It will compete with :
- the National Council of the Iranian Resistance Showraye Melliye Moghavamate Iran (radical revolutionaries) of Maryam Rajavi (five member parties : Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran, Organization of Iranian People's Fadaian Guerillas, Association to Defend Iran's Independence and Democracy, Towhidi Merchants Guild, Committed Professors of Iran's Universities and Schools of Higher Education).
- the Green Path of Hope Coordinating Council Showraye Hamahangiye Rahe Sabze Omid(reformists) of Ardeshir Amirarjomand (two member parties : Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization).
The three rival groups constitute the majority of the Iranian Opposition but do not cooperate with each other.
Two important points :
- the communist parties are still trying to create a coalition of their own but they failed during the past 30 years. The latest attempt is named Showraye Namayandegane Niroohaye Chap va Kommunist (Council of Communist and Left Forces Representatives), composed at first by 25 founding parties and groups, and now by only 18. Among them : the Rahe Kargar, the Fadaian-Minority, the Communist Party and the Ranjbaran Party.
- among the powerful parties, neither the National Front (Jebheye Melli), nor the Fadaian-Majority (Aksariyat) belong to any union or coalition.
Names and websites of the Opposition
There are 20 Iranian communist parties. None are active or known inside Iran. The Rahe Kargar and the Worker-Communist Party used to be parties that were deemed "serious" by other Opposition parties, but they split many times and, today, are too small to influence Iranians abroad or inside Iran.
The well-known Communist Party which used to be very powerful. No longer active but "alive". It is the oldest political party in Iran still alive.
- Tudeh Party of Iran led by Mohammad Omidvar/Ali Khavari. The International Department of the Tudeh Party of Iran is headed by Navid Shomali.
Now, only a minority of the original members remains in the party. The majority was either murdered by the Islamic Republic (especially in 1988), or left the party to pursue cultural activities or to join other political parties (such as the United Republicans of Iran), but some others were expelled from the Tudeh Party and created six other Tudeh grouplets :
- Tudeh path (or Rahe Tudeh) led by Ali Khodaei/Ali Reza Elahi (founded by two excluded party members)
- Tarnegashte edalat led by Afshin Razani (excluded from the party in the 1990s)
- People's voice (Sedaye mardom)
- The Tudehis of Farhad Asemi (ex-Rahe Tudeh)
- Party's path
The splits of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (which itself was one of the separated faction of the Communist Party of Iran) :
- Worker-Communist Party of Iran led by Hamid Taqvaee.
- Hekmatist Party led by Koorosh Modaressi.
- Workers Socialist Unity led by Reza Moghaddam and Iraj Azarin.
The two Maoist parties :
- Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) with Maryam/Nasrin Jazayeri and Bohran Azimi.
- Toilers Party of Iran (Hezbe Ranjbarane Iran), a 1979 split of the Tudeh Party with Younes Parsa-banab
The original communist motherparty was called Organization of Iranian People's Fadai Guerrillas. Since 1980, it has split dozens of times. Today the members that are still active are scattered in 9 parties, 7 of them still communists. The other two have evolved into democratic socialist parties.
- Fedaian Organisation (Minority) with Mr Tavakol.
- Minority Cell with Saeid.
- 19 Bahman
- Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas led by Ashraf Dehghani.
- Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas led by Mehdi Same and allied with the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran in the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
- Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas led by Hossein Zohari ('Bahram').
- Iranian fedaian communist league with Babak Rahimi and Azizeh Shahmoradi
- The Central Committee of the Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar)
- The Executive Organ of the Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar)
- Komalah led by Ebrahim Alizadeh. It is, according to them, the "kurdish section" of the Communist Party of Iran. In fact the Komalah and the Communist Party of Iran are the same.
- Socialist Party of Iran led by Fereydoon Gilani.
The Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority is the most prominent.
- Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority) with Behrouz Khaligh as its secretary-general and Hassan Zehtab as its foreign relations coordinator.
- Union of People's Fedaian of Iran with Parviz Navidi/Ahmad Azad.
- Provisional Council of Iranian Left Socialists with Majid Zarbakhsh
- Organization of Iranian Socialists led by Mansour Bayatzadeh (their members are called Socialist Mossadeghists), close to the National Front of Iran
- Green Party of Iran led by Kayvan Kaboli.
- Social Democratic Party of Iran led by Jalal Madani/Mr Arastoo.
Religious people against the Islamist ideology : they are against the application of the Sharia but at the same time oppose everything opposed to what they call "the main principles of Islam". They believe in the equality between men and women and at the same time their female supporters are mostly veiled. The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which abandoned its armed opposition since 2001, is considered to be the main Opposition to the Islamic Republic. The Muslim-Democrats who remained in Iran are close to the Reformists and grouped in a coalition named the Nationalist-Religious Forces whose spokesman is Ezzatollah Sahabi. The main party of the coalition is the Freedom Movement Party of Ebrahim Yazdi, but also the Movement of Muslim Militants of Habibollah Peyman. It should be noted that most founding members of the PMOI used to be members of the Freedom Movement Party.
- People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran led by Maryam Rajavi.
- Freedom Movement Party led by Ebrahim Yazdi.
- Movement of Muslim Militants led by Habibollah Peyman. (?)
- Islamic Society of the Iranians led by Abolhassan Banisadr
- The Freedom-seekers Combattants of Iran, a pro-Shariati party
- The Council of Muslim Socialists, another pro-Shariati party close to Iranian communist parties
Most of them are republican but some favor a constitutional monarchy as in Spain. The National Front and the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat) are the most active. Some of them are united in an organization called "Melliun". The National Front has the particularity of being the only opposition party to have an official bureau in Tehran :
- National Front of Iran led by Adib Boroumand (based in Iran) (composed of individuals and subparties such as the Iran Party formerly led by Nezamoddin Movahed, the Party of the Iranian Nation led by Khosrow Seif/Mehran Adib, the National Movement of Iranian Resistance led by Hamid Zolnour/Hossein Assadi and The Liberal Democrats of Iran with Ramin Kamran.)
- Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat) led by Foad Pashaie .
- Marze Por Gohar Party led by Roozbeh Farahanipour.
- Pan-Iranist Party led by Zahra Gholamipour.
The Anti-Islamic Nationalists
- Kingdom Assembly of Iran, also called Tondar, spokesman: Rosita Manteghi
- Freedom Ressurrection Organization of Iran, spokesman : Towhid Karimzadeh 
- New Ressurrection Organization of Iran, spokesman : Omid Dana 
Ethnic nationalist parties
Among the ethnic parties, only the Kurdish DPIK and Komala are active. Some of these parties formed a union called "Congress of Iranian Nationalities" whose activities are mainly done by both parties cited above
- Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan led by Mustafa Hejri.
- Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Khaled Azizi
- Komala is led by Abdollah Mohtadi.
- Toilers Komala is led by Omer Ilkhani Zada.
- Pejak, a group linked to the PKK and led by Rahman Haji Ahmadi.
- Organization of Iranian Kurdistan Struggle led by Baba Sheikh Hosseini
- The Revolutionary Khabat Organization of Iranian Kurdistan
- Kurdistan Freedom Party led by Hossein Yazdan Panah
- People's Resistance Movement of Iran (Jundollah) led by Mohammad Zaher Baluch.
- Balochistan United Front (Federal Republican) whose spokesman is Jamshid Amiri
- Baluchistan National Movement-Iran
- Balochistan People's Party led by Nasser Booladei
- Balochistan Mobarezin Movement led by M Baloch
- Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement (GAMOH) is led by Dr. Mahmut Ali Çöhreganlı
- Federal-Democratic Movement of Azerbaijan led by Mohammad Azadgar
For more information about these parties see: Politics of Khuzestan
- Ahwazi Islamic Sunni Organization led by Omar Otman Al-Hayawi
- Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz
- Ahwazian Arab People's Democratic, Popular Front
- Ahwazi Renaissance Party
- Ahwaz Liberation Organisation
- Organization for Defence of the Rights of Turkmen People
- National Movement of Iranian Turkmenistan
- Turkmen National Democratic Movement
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Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran between two revolutions. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-10134-7
- (Persian) Khane Ahzab Iran (House of Iran's political parties)
- Iran Electoral Archive - Political Parties