Iran - Political parties

During the reign of Reza Shah (1925–41), political parties were not permitted to function. After 1941, parties sprang up, but most of them were of an ephemeral nature. The Communistoriented Tudeh (Masses) Party was better organized than the others and benefited from the services of devoted followers and foreign funds. In 1949, an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the shah was traced to the Tudeh, and it was banned. It continued to work through front groups, and its views were reflected in some periodicals, but the organization was extinguished in the Shah's post-1953 crackdown.

In 1957, the government created facade political parties, the Nationalist (Mellioun) Party, headed by Manochehr Eqbal, then prime minister, and the People's (Mardom) Party, headed by former prime minister Asadullah Alam (the "loyal opposition"). Neither of these parties ever attracted any popular following. In 1975, the shah ordered the formation of a single political organization, the Iran Resurgence (Rastakhiz) Party, into which were merged all existing legal parties. Three cardinal principles were cited for membership in the party: faith in Iran's constitution, loyalty to the monarchical regime, and fidelity to the "white revolution." This party, like others before it, lacked a popular base.

After the overthrow of the shah's regime in February 1979, new political parties were formed, the most powerful being the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), which took control of the Majlis. However, power was wielded primarily by the military, the president, the clerical elite, and the heads of the banyads, autonomous financial organizations which have considerable power and which were formed from the confiscated wealth of the former royal family and its cronies.

Today Iran's parliament, or Majlis, is made up of various groups representing a spectrum of views ranging from hard-line radical Islam to moderates and liberals. Moderates generally hold less hostile views about the West while still believing in an Islamic republic. In 1997, a moderate politician, Mohammad Khatami, was elected president of Iran. The moderates scored a further triumph in the parliamentary elections of February and May 2000. A moderate reformist coalition headed by Khatami won 189 out of 290 seats in the Majlis, with radical Islamists winning 54, independents 42, and religious minority parties 5. The following organizations had success at the 2000 parliamentary elections: Assembly of the Followers of the Imam's Line, Freethinkers' Front, Islamic Iran Participation Front, Moderation and Development Party, Servants of Construction Party, and the Society of Self-sacrificing Devotees.

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