PHOTO: Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani: “We are not some property that groups can seize”

Iran’s Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, likely to be a significant influence on the balance of power in Parliamentary elections in February, maneuvered carefully on Tuesday when asked about his position.

Speaking about the vote for MPs and for the Assembly of Experts, which nominally chooses the Supreme Leader, Larijani sidestepped a reporter’s challenge about whether he belonged to a “conservative”, “reformist”, or a “moderate” pro-Government faction:

People act on the basis of detailed policies and convey principles for their political movement… [The] Reformist [movement], likewise, has a good slogan that the individual can accomplish in certain affairs… None of these slogans are without virtue.

In the Islamic Republic it is important to have a comprehensive view….In many affairs, such as social, economic and international matters, we have multi-faceted equations, and those who have a singular view do not reduce problems, instead they increase them.

President Rouhani and his allies like former President Hashemi Rafsanjani are likely to form a “moderate” bloc to contest the elections, with Rafsanjani seeking to regain his chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts. Observers are looking for signs that the Rouhani-Rafsanjani bloc will ally with reformists, who have largely been shut out of power by conservatives and hardliners for more than a decade.

Fearing the prospects, hardliners have stepped up attacks on the Government and Rafsanjani. Conservatives have called for effective organization to meet the challenge.

Leading conservative politician Mohammad Reza Bahonar said at a press conference on Tuesday that meetings were now being held to find a common line:

All of these efforts are the price we pay because we do not have several strong parties in the country…Therefore we must spend more time to create unity in order to send our message to the people and to heat up the election environment.”

Larijani has maintained a balancing position in Parliament, not tying himself to the Government line but also blocking hardline efforts to undermine Rouhani, for example, on approval of the July 14 nuclear deal with the 5+1 Powers.

Pressed further on Tuesday for a direct answer about his political affiliation, Larijani replied, “We are not some property that they [political groups] can seize; people are introduced by their ideas.” He added that reformists “should not think” that he is drawing closer to them.