A veteran political activist and heavyweight reformist in Iran has lamented about unprecedented division among members of the so-called pro-reform camp in the country.
"The reformists have never been so divided as they are today," the former caretaker of the Iranian Interior Ministry, Mostafa Tajzadeh, said in a Q&A session held last Monday at the Union of Islamic Iran People Party.
The Iranian reformists are a political faction in Iran that support the former 1997-2005 administration. They call for "vaguely defined" changes in the Iranian constitution and demand a higher role for themselves in running the country.
A recent survey by the Iranian Students Polling Agency showed that 28% of Iranians identify themselves as leaning reformist, while 15% identify as leaning principlist (hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), Khabar Online reported in 2017.
However, a widespread national protest that broke out in late December 2017 and early January 2018 reflected the fact that many Iranians were fed up with both factions, the dominant conservatives and the reformists who have always played second fiddle in managing the country.
"Conservatives, reformists, your days are over," the protesters chanted in more than 100 cities across Iran.
Nevertheless, whenever the time for an election approaches, the members of the reformist camp throw aside their lethargy and step forward, calling people to the ballot boxes.
According to Tajzadeh, the reformists have four strategies concerning the next parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections scheduled to be held simultaneously across the country on February 2020.
"Unconditional participation, conditional participation, surrendering to the opposition (the conservatives), and bypassing the elections are the four strategies devised by the reformists," Tajzadeh asserted.
The more people give up hope about reforms in Iran, the more likely they gravitate toward subversion, former President Mohammad Khatami warned earlier, adding, "Subversive forces might succeed."
Meeting with members of the Engineers Association on July 6, Khatami called for efforts toward forming an effective strategy for reformists to attract people to participate in elections.
Five days earlier, a prominent reformist, Mohsen Safaei Farahani, had cautioned, "Should the situation not change, I would not vote, since I cannot choose between bad and worse, anymore."
According to a reformist faction that Safaei Farahani represents, they should participate in elections provided being capable of gaining parliamentary seats for "highly potent" reformists. If not, and in case the Guardian Council (GC) disqualified the powerful reformists' nominees, they have argued, they would boycott the elections.
In the last parliamentary elections, the reformists' primary nominees were all disqualified by the GC, and they were forced to vote for a secondary list of the nominees or "reserved" forces.
Nonetheless, these secondary nominees' performance in the parliament had been so poor that the reformists publicly admit they are not defendable.
Therefore, a faction of the reformists recommends bargaining with the GC and encouraging it to refrain from disqualifying their primary nominees.
The faction, represented by Tajzadeh, also believes that in the absence of a thrilling competitive election, they should refrain from participation in the polls.
"Unconditional participation in the elections will damage the reformists' political identity and people's trust in them," Tajzadeh insisted.
Retaliating to their fellows, other reformist politicians, including 77-year-old former Deputy Parliament Speaker Behzad Nabavi, are wholeheartedly for unconditional participation in the election and vehemently against boycotting it.
"We (reformists) do not know any other way but participating in the elections," Nabavi explicitly acknowledged on July 4 at the Union of Islamic Iran People Party.
"Sometimes, we have no option other than choosing between bad and worse," he added.
Ten days later, he said the reformists should do their best to encourage up to 80% of the people to step forward and vote next February, and by doing so, enhance "our power."
By "our power," Nabavi meant Iran’s power that has been weakened by the 2017-2018 widespread anti-regime rallies across Iran.
The only counteroffensive in response to the protests is political openness to the extent that people passionately participate in the next elections, Nabavi and his followers insist.
The conservative allies of Khamenei have not yet reacted to the reformists' proposals.