Khatami supporters include secular intellectuals, reformminded technocrats, youth, and women. This constituency expects him to fulfill campaign promises by allowing more personal freedom, making economic changes that will cut the power of state-backed monopolies, and creating a more flexible Islamic regime. They voted overwhelmingly for reformist candidates for the Majlis in the 2000 election. (The average age of representatives elected to the sixth parliament is significantly lower than that of the fifth parliament.
Conversant in Western philosophy and history, Khatami has shown a special interest in the value of enlightenment and civil religion as reflected in the writings of Immanuel Kant and Alexis de Toqueville. He favors a more objective under-standing of the West by encouraging a dialogue on intellectual and strategic issues. As minister of culture, Khatami implemented policies aimed at creating a more open society. During his barnstorming campaign he was able to generate broad interest and excitement over his relatively liberal agenda by focusing on the issues of free expression, civil rights, and diversity of attitudes. Moreover, he challenged the notion that politics should be monopolized by a specific group. Since taking office, Khatami has defied hard-line opponents by selecting moderates and women for his cabinet. His choices reflect a determination to honor campaign pledges. On 20 August 1997, a major hurdle was cleared when the conservative-dominated parliament approved his cabinet, to the surprise of most observers. Achieving this victory was the first sign of Khatami's negotiation skills in dealing with hard-line legislative opponents. Three years later, in May 2000, the conservative parliament held its last meeting in Tehran as the newly elected parliament prepared to take over. When taking their seats in the Majlis, all representatives must, according to the 1979 Constitution, swear allegiance to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The reformist coalition, seated in late May 2000, controlled about 80% of the seats following the February and May 2000 elections. Supporters of President Khatami—Mehdi Karubi and Majid Ansari—were elected speaker and deputy speaker while Behzad Nabavi and Mohammad-Reza Khatami (President Khatami's younger brother) were elected first and second deputy speakers. (As of March 2003, Karubi was still speaker of the Majlis, Ansari was head of the budget and planning commission of parliament, representing Tehran, Nabavi retained his post of first deputy speaker, and Mohammad-Reza Khatami was deputy speaker).
Municipal elections were held on 28 February 2003, the second since the 1979 revolution, and reformists suffered a crushing defeat. The reversal of fortune from the 1999 municipal elections—reformers won all 15 seats on the Tehran city council in that election, while conservatives won 14 of the 15 seats in 2003—was largely attributed to frustration with the slow pace of Khatami's reforms, and with politics in general due to continuous infighting between reformers and conservatives. Voter turnout was only 39%. Khatami appeared to take the defeat in stride, saying "the people become disappointed with the government system when they see the system takes its own way separate from what the people demand and is unable to handle the state of affairs properly." He underlined the fact that the elections demonstrated the strength of democracy in Iran.