Over the past year, events in Iran, including foreign policy shifts, widespread and radical nationwide protests, and economic inefficiencies, have led to significant changes in the political forces of the regime. As the country approaches its next parliamentary elections, it is essential to understand the current flow of political forces.

One might question the existence of political parties within this regime, which is valid. However, this hypothesis cannot be easily dismissed. The regime does indeed have some sort of political factions, albeit with a different meaning and function compared to what is typically seen in democratic countries.

But all of these factions have totally lost their credibility because of a series of uprisings and mass protests in recent years, especially the 2017 events, which marked the decline of certain factions and their influence on the people. In their slogans, the people rejected all these factions, effectively ending their political relevance.

In practice, any party, group, or political force wishing to operate within this regime must demonstrate untiring commitment to the principles of Velayat al-Faqih to be granted permission.

However, for this political theater to be convincing, the regime is forced to present a facade of diverse political parties and forces actively participating in policymaking.

As elections serve as a means for the regime to claim legitimacy, this presentation of diverse political forces gains even more importance and significance during such periods.

Thus, this policy pursued until 2015 resulted in the emergence of an excessive number of parties, reaching approximately 250, most of which were aligned with religious authority.

In 2017, during the confrontation between the Rafsanjani-Rouhani faction and the Khamenei-Raisi faction, changes were introduced to the rules concerning parties in the Rouhani government. This led to a reduction in the number of parties to around 110, with about 90 of them engaging in activities at the national level, while the remaining parties played roles at the local level.

Beyond the statistics related to this big number of political parties and forces, the broader political landscape of the regime can be divided into three main categories: “Reformists,” ” Principlists,” and a so-called “Moderate” trend, which tends to align with the reformist camp. These three political currents and forces constitute the core of the regime.

The Principlists:

This current gained prominence after the student protests in 1999 and further expanded during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Over time, several key political forces emerged within this movement:

  • Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces (established in 2019)
  • Sustainability Front of the Islamic Revolution (established in 2011)
  • Front of Followers of the Imam and Leadership (a coalition of around 17 fundamentalist parties formed in 2014)

Within this ‘Principlist’ current, there are various political parties and groups:

  • Combatant Clergy Society (established in 1977)
  • Teachers’ Association of Qom Seminary (founded in 1961)
  • Islamic Mutalfa Party (formed in 1963)
  • Community of Martyrs of the Islamic Revolution (established in 1996)
  • Islamic Revolution Pilgrims (founded in 2007)
  • Islamic Revolution Stability Front (known as Stability Front)
  • Islamic Society of Engineers (established in 1988)
  • Islamic Association of Doctors of Iran (founded in 1992)
  • Zainab Society (formed in 1986)
  • The community of devotees of Islam (established in the 1940s)
  • Islamic Civilization Party
  • Community of Loyalists of the Islamic Revolution
  • Iran Islamic Thinkers Party (established in 2005)
  • Islamic Iran Academics Association (founded in 2004)
  • Islamic Development and Justice Party of Iran (established in 2003)
  • Green Party of Iran (established in 2007)
  • Iran Islamic Progress and Justice Community (formed in 2007)

Additionally, there are other groups and parties categorized under the ‘Principlist’ current:

  • Ansar Hezbollah (Hezbollah Coordination Council, formed in 1991)
  • Islamic Association of Academicians (established in 1989)

The ‘Principlist’ current also includes other political parties and groups such as the ‘Great Coalition of Principlists,’ ‘United Front of Principlists,’ also known as ‘United Front,’ the ‘Coalition of Iranian Islamic Settlers,’ unofficially known as ‘Settlers,’ the ‘Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces,’ known as Shana, the ‘National Assembly of the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces,’ also known as the ‘Jamna group,’ and the ‘Unity Council of Islamic Revolutionary Forces.’

The so-called Reformist movement:

The ‘reform’ movement within the regime primarily emerged after the presidential elections of 1997 also known as the 2 Khordad Movement. The ‘Participation Front’ initially played a significant role in this movement, but their activities were restricted by the regime after the 2009 elections.

However, in 2014, the ‘reform’ current resurfaced with the emergence of the ‘Union of Islamic Iran People Party’ and the ‘Executives of Construction Party,’ which is also known as the ‘Right Wing of Reforms.’ These two parties branched off from the traditional right-wing of the Iranian regime and are now among the most important forces and parties of the ‘Reformist’ movement.

The ‘reform’ movement has seen the involvement of several parties and groups over the years. Some of these parties include:

  • Association of Combatant Clerics
  • National Trust Party
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Party
  • Islamic Labour Party
  • Islamic Iran Freedom and Justice Organization
  • Nedaye Iranian Party
  • Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers
  • Islamic Association of Iranian Medical Society
  • Assembly of the Forces of the Imam’s Line
  • Islamic Iran Solidarity Party
  • Democracy Party
  • Will of the Iranian Nation Party
  • Association of the Women of the Islamic Republic
  • Islamic Assembly of Ladies
  • Worker House

The ‘moderate’ movement is more closely aligned with the ‘reformist’ current. The following parties are prominent within this political movement:

  1. Executives of Construction Party
  2. Moderation and Development Party
  3. Independent and Moderation Party of Iran
  4. Islamic Workers’ Welfare Party

It should be noted that the categorization of political currents within the regime is a simplified representation of internal tendencies. While these parties and currents are expected to remain obedient and critical of religious authority, in practice, they often act more like power and wealth-seeking factions. Their active engagement in political life is primarily focused on times of political power distribution and elections, rather than genuinely representing the society’s interests.