About political parties in Iran

Published 10th March, 2011

There are a large number of organisations in Iran that call themselves political parties. Some organisations are more like NGOs and pressure groups with single issue interests. There are a number of parties affiliated with exiled figures or organised outside of Iran. There are some parties which are very small and have never had any representation but continue to exist almost as debating groups. In total there are 223 registered parties in Iran.

Under the Shah of Iran the country operated as a single party state. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution more than one hundred parties were formed. The most prominent of these was a vehicle for the clergy and was known as the Islamic Republican Party (IRP). It dominated the first three elections in post 1979 Iran, but was disbanded in 1987. A number of the modern day parties derive their roots from the IRP.

Today, there are two broad coalitions fighting for recognition in Iran. Those currently occupying the majority of the Majlis (parliament) seats are from the Conservatives. They wish to defend the objectives of the revolution and oppose Western influence. They also want to halt the second group, the Reformists.

The Reformists are mainly centrists and Islamist leftists who seek to promote social and political liberalisation along with economic restructuring. They are less antagonistic towards the West, but that does not mean that the wish to see an opening up of the country.

Right across the political spectrum there are small parties representing almost every political stance. Most of these parties have websites but some of them may difficult to access. Within Iran, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are expected to filter adult and political sites. That means that some of the links provided on our site may not be accessible from time to time.

Those parties highlighted here are the top four or five parties at the present time from each of the Conservative and Reformist coalitions in Iran. It should be noted that the Reformists have said that they will boycott the 2012 elections. However, many parties do not field candidates, instead they publish lists of those they support. The Iranian authorities have identified a number of people standing as Independents who are affiliated to Reformist parties. Therefore, it may be concluded that individuals are acting on their own initiative, or the Reformist parties have decided that there is no point in openly announcing their lists and are carrying out their campaigns by stealth.

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