Political parties in Iran

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After the banning of the last three Opposition parties in 1983, parties and candidates usually have operated in loose alignments within two main coalitions, the conservative (osool-garayan) and the reformist (eslah-talaban) both of them coming from the former single-party Islamic Republic Party.

Main parties authorized inside Iran

Only Islamist parties can legally operate inside Iran.

Main parties banned but tolerated inside Iran

These parties are banned as they are accused to be spies, but their members have not been persecuted. They are allowed to stand in elections although with heavy restrictions.

Main parties banned and persecuted in Iran (operating mostly outside Iran)

These parties are banned as they are accused to be spies and work against Islam, and their members have been killed in large numbers.

Only candidates and parties that do not oppose the religious system of the governance (Velayate faqih) can participate in elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is enforced by the clerical Guardian Council which vets candidates.

Offices open to election on a national level in the Islamic Republic include, the president, the parliament (or Majlis), and an Assembly of Experts (which elects the Supreme Leader of Iran).

Parties inside Iran

These parties can operate inside the Islamic regime. Until 2010 two groupings functioned: the Conservatives (extremist and ultra-religious right-wing parties) and the Reformists (moderate religious right-wing parties). As of 2014 only the Conservative parties can carry out political and cultural activities inside Iran. The Reformists have turned into "Moderates" so as to continue their activities without being arrested. The "Moderates" (Eetedal-garayan) have yet to launch their political parties.

Conservative Alliance

Main parties

Reformist Coalition

Main parties

Opposition parties active in exile


Notability of these parties

About 64 Iranian political parties operate outside Iran.

Only these are active (they hold congresses annually or biannually, have newspapers, have an official website, have more than five hundred members in several countries around the world) :

see also List of political parties in Iran.

Others are of minor importance :

- The Tudeh Party of Iran and the Communist Party of Iran (of Ebrahim Alizadeh), which were important parties in the past, exist today in a very anemic state. The Tudeh Party was the greatest party in the entire Iranian history : their influence in the 1940s and 1950s was never again achieved by other political parties afterwards. It was severely damaged, at first, by the secret services of the Shah regime and, next, by the Islamic Republic which tortured and killed their most prominent members (almost all the Central Committee). Although the Soviet Union helped them to reconstitute their forces in Afghanistan and in Eastern Europe, they never recovered. The Tudeh Party was almost dead in the final years of the Soviet Union and lost the majority of their remaining members as some were excluded (they formed the Rahe Tudeh faction), some founded another party called the People's Democratic Party (which does not exist anymore) and many died of natural causes. As for the Communist Party of Iran, it was the most important communist party of Iran in the 1980s thanks to thousands of members and a real influence in the Iranian Kurdistan. The Party fought against the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and lost hundreds of their members in the fighting. It was badly hit by the several splits : the majority, led by Mansoor Hekmat, left to found the Worker-Communist Party. Then, the majority of the remaining members left to found the Komala Party. Its headquarters is located in the Iraqi Kurdistan.

- Worker-Communist Party of Iran was formerly powerful and led by the charismatic Mansoor Hekmat. In 2000, the party was considered the most important left-wing party of the Iranian Opposition, whereas this role was kept by the Tudeh in the 1950s, the Fadaian guerillas in the 1970s, the Communist Party in the 1980s and the Rahe Kargar in the 1990s. But they split into three rival and weak parties 1 after their leader died in 2002. Among the three parties the Worker-Communist Party of Iran-Hekmatist keeps half of the original members. The three parties do not cooperate with each other and frequently publish articles against one another. Due to these splits and defections, the most important left-wing party is now the Fadaian-Majority (around 400 members outside Iran).[2]

- National Resistance Movement of Iran (NAMIR) of Shapour Bakhtiar,[3] the Party of the Iranian Nation (PIN) of Darius and Parvaneh Foroohar and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK) of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, although prominent parties in the past, have almost been destroyed with the killings of their charismatic leaders by the Islamic Republic. The NAMIR and PIN have almost ceased to exist, whereas the DPIK has managed to continue its activities. In December 2006, the DPIK split another time into two groups. Along the Communist Party, it used to have a real influence in the Iranian Kurdistan in the 1980s.

- The Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar) has isolated itself by rejecting joint actions or even dialogue with non-communist parties.[4] The Party split into two rival groups in August 2009. It used to be one of the most active left-wing party in the 1990s but, the 2009 split, on the one hand, and the death of a number of their ageing members, on the other hand, has weakened it.

- The Kurdish social-democratic Komala (not to be confused with the communist Komalah with an h), although an important party, can't be classified among the four powerful party of the Opposition cited above since its modest activities are only concentrated in the Kurdish-inhabited provinces of Iran. Furthermore, Komala split into two parties in August 2007.[5]

- The Union of People's Fedaian of Iran has been designated as the twin sister of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority (OIPF-M) but has far fewer members. They are trying to merge with the Fedaian-Majority to create a strong left-wing party.. Although very little by size, they keep holding congresses every two years and publish an online newspaper.

- The Freedom Party of Iran used to be the most influential party in the first year of the 1979 revolution; they even formed the first government at that time. They have now become extinct. Their website is no longer available, their last remaining members are jailed, dead, murdered or exiled. This party has always been a party with low membership but its ideology was prominent in the first years of the revolution. Along the Tudeh Party, it belongs to ancient parties with a brilliant past but a bleak future, especially because of their very low young members.


These 64 parties can be divided into 6 ideological branches from left to right :



Before the year 2003, a lot of parties tried to form a coalition against the Islamic regime and failed. Only two unions succeeded; but even them - which are the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the Workers Left Unity - Iran - are just alliances of two parties : the religious-leftist People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran and the marxist Organization of Iranian People Fadaee Guerillas for the first one and the Iranian fedaian communist league and the Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar) for the latter.


In 2003 the Democratic People's Party of Iran of Babak Amirkhosravi (a separated fraction of the communist Tudeh party), the Iranian National Republicans of Hassan Shariatmadari, son of the late Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, and the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority created the United Republicans of Iran (URI), a federation of three pro-republican parties.[6][7] Over one thousand persons took part in the inauguration of the URI in Berlin.

At the same time, in Paris, the Union of People's Fedaian of Iran, the Organization of Iranian Socialists and the Provisional Council of Iranian Left Socialists[8] created another alliance named the Democratic and Secular Republicans of Iran (DSRI).

Both the URI and the DSRI failed to merge and, over time, have lost the majority of their adherents (especially the URI as a separated faction created another group called the Organization of the Republicans of Iran).

Moreover, since September 2005 a greater spectrum of these exiled parties who used to be very divided (even among groups of similar philosophies) have begun to talk. Reza Pahlavi had dinner in Berlin with some of the leftists who had helped to overthrow his father, and it generated outrage on both the left and the right.

For the first time, a Republican (the late spokesman of the National Front of Iran) Parviz Varjavand wrote in an article in August 2006[9] that Democracy is compatible with both a Constitutional Monarchy and a Republic and that the issue should not be between Constitutional Monarchy and Republic. The Green Party of Iran led by Kayvan Koboli said the same thing months before Parviz Varjavand.[10] Heshmat Raeisi, ex-member of the Central Committee of both the Fedai and the Tudeh Party,[11] participated in the sixth Congress of the (monarchist) Constitutionalist Party of Iran in November 2006 and gave a speech;[12] in February 2007 Dariush Homayoun of the rightist Constitutionalist Party of Iran wrote a friendly letter to the major leftist party (the OIPFG (M)).[13] Jamshid Taheripoor of the latter party answered.[14]

After the project of uniting republicans" (=thus excluding those who favored a constitutional monarchy), dissidents created at the same time two new organizations whose ideology was not "republicanism" (as it failed) but "secularism".


Both the Global Network of Iranian Green Seculars or GNIGS ( ) and the Union for Advancement of Secular Democracy in Iran or UASDI ( ) were set up independently in 2010. The first one has roughly 500 members whereas the latter has 100 members.

They talked to merge during 2011 but failed, as the GNIGS has ruled out working with the Islamic Reformists deemed Islamist whereas the UASDI thinks secular democracy can only be achieved with the help of the Reformists.

The GNIGS is close to ethnic parties like the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, constitutional monarchists like the Constitutional Party of Iran and other parties which seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The UASDI is attempting to talk to the Reformists and organizations such as the Union of Republicans of Iran that believe the Islamic Republic can still be reformed from within.

A new union of 40 parties et associations (such as the Pan-Iranist Party and the Constitutionnalist Party) seeking the overthrow of the regime called the National Council of Iran ( ) was created in April 2013 in Paris and Prince Reza Pahlavi was chosen as the spokesman of this organization. The National Council of Iran (Showraye Melliye Iran) has the ambition to represent an alternative to the Islamic Republic and become the most vocal Opposition group.

It will compete with :

- the National Council of the Iranian Resistance Showraye Melliye Moghavamate Iran (radical revolutionaries) of Maryam Rajavi (five member parties : Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran, Organization of Iranian People's Fadaian Guerillas, Association to Defend Iran's Independence and Democracy, Towhidi Merchants Guild, Committed Professors of Iran's Universities and Schools of Higher Education).

- the Green Path of Hope Coordinating Council Showraye Hamahangiye Rahe Sabze Omid(reformists) of Ardeshir Amirarjomand (two member parties : Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization).

The three rival groups constitute the majority of the Iranian Opposition but do not cooperate with each other.

Two important points :

- the communist parties are still trying to create a coalition of their own but they failed during the past 30 years. The latest attempt is named Showraye Namayandegane Niroohaye Chap va Kommunist (Council of Communist and Left Forces Representatives), composed at first by 25 founding parties and groups,[15] and now by only 18.[16] Among them : the Rahe Kargar, the Fadaian-Minority, the Communist Party and the Ranjbaran Party.

- among the powerful parties, neither the National Front (Jebheye Melli), nor the Fadaian-Majority (Aksariyat) belong to any union or coalition.

Names and websites of the Opposition

The Communists

There are 20 Iranian communist parties. None are active or known inside Iran. The Rahe Kargar and the Worker-Communist Party used to be parties that were deemed "serious" by other Opposition parties, but they split many times and, today, are too small to influence Iranians abroad or inside Iran.

Historic Party

The well-known Communist Party which used to be very powerful. No longer active but "alive". It is the oldest political party in Iran still alive.

Now, only a minority of the original members remains in the party. The majority was either murdered by the Islamic Republic (especially in 1988), or left the party to pursue cultural activities or to join other political parties (such as the United Republicans of Iran), but some others were expelled from the Tudeh Party and created six other Tudeh grouplets :


The splits of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (which itself was one of the separated faction of the Communist Party of Iran) :


The two Maoist parties :


The original communist motherparty was called Organization of Iranian People's Fadai Guerrillas. Since 1980, it has split dozens of times. Today the members that are still active are scattered in 9 parties, 7 of them still communists. The other two have evolved into democratic socialist parties.


The Socialists/Social-Democrats

The Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian-Majority is the most prominent.

SUMKA (National socialists)

The Iran National-Socialist Workers group or SUMKA, existed officially almost ten years until the party was disbanded by Mohammad Reza Shah and the founder of the party Davud Monshizadeh was unofficially exiled to Sweden. It has been claimed that the party enjoyed funding directly from Reza Pahlavi and some Georgian-Iranians for a time. SUMKA had managed to gather a good number of members, sympathizers and support base amongst the university students, labors, soldiers, technocrats and other workers until the party was prohibited by Mohammad Reza Shah.

The Muslim-Democrats

Religious people against the Islamist ideology : they are against the application of the Sharia but at the same time oppose everything opposed to what they call "the main principles of Islam". They believe in the equality between men and women and at the same time their female supporters are mostly veiled. The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which abandoned its armed opposition since 2001, is considered to be the main Opposition to the Islamic Republic. The Muslim-Democrats who remained in Iran are close to the Reformists and grouped in a coalition named the Nationalist-Religious Forces whose spokesman is Ezzatollah Sahabi. The main party of the coalition is the Freedom Movement Party of Ebrahim Yazdi, but also the Movement of Muslim Militants of Habibollah Peyman. It should be noted that most founding members of the PMOI used to be members of the Freedom Movement Party.

The Liberal-Democrats/Nationalists

Most of them are republican but some favor a constitutional monarchy as in Spain. The National Front and the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat) are the most active. Some of them are united in an organization called "Melliun".:[58]

The Anti-Islamic Nationalists

Ethnic nationalist parties

Among the ethnic parties, only the Kurdish DPIK and Komala are active. Some of these parties formed a union called Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran whose activities are mainly done by both parties cited above[66]


For more information about these parties see: Politics of Khuzestan

Lurs & Bakhtiaris

See also


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See also

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