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Former President Warns Of 'Subversion' In Iran If No Reforms

File photo - Former president Mohammad Khatami casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran, after supporting the first election of Hassan Rouhani. June 14, 2013

The more people give up hope about reforms in Iran, the more likely they gravitate towards subversion, the former President of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Khatami, has warned, adding, "Subversive forces might succeed."

Meeting with members of Engineers Association on Saturday, July 6, Khatami called for efforts toward forming an effective strategy for reformists strategy, to attract people to participate in elections.

The Iranian electorate has at times pinned its hopes on reformists during elections and handed them victories, starting with Mr. Khatami’s first election as president in 1997. But every time conservatives supported by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the hardline military have quashed hopes of reforming the system in favor of a less restrictive political and social environment.

For many years now, Mr. Khatami himself has been banned from the media and his movements restricted, but now the hardline core of the establishment is worried about popular discontent amid U.S. sanctions and a deteriorating economy. Perhaps this has given the green light to Khatami to speak out.

Earlier in a meeting with the members of the reformist parliamentary faction (Omid) on March 6, Khatami had also warned against the consequences of people losing hope in reforming the governing system.

In the absence of reforms, convincing people to go to vote in the next elections will be a tough undertaking, Khatami reminded reformist members of Majlis (Iran’s parliament).

In remarks reflected on a Telegram account at the same time, Khatami described the current condition of Iran as "despondent" and stressed that the Islamic Republic's governing system "should be reformed and become flexible."

Khatami, who served as President for eight years (1997-2005), asserted, "Today, it is tough to call on the people to come forward and vote again. Do you think people will listen to you and me again and participate in the next elections?", Khatami asked, and immediately added, "I believe it is unlikely unless we witness evolution in the coming year."

Khatami seemed to be referring to the next parliamentary elections next spring, followed by presidential elections in 2021.

Meanwhile, without naming any group, Khatami accused some "political factions" of attempting to deepen the sense of despondency in society, adding, "The reformists' loss will never lead to their rival's gain; it will only help subversive forces."

It appears that Khatami's approach towards Iran's current political situation has not changed, and he still insists on the necessity of encouraging people to come forward and participate in elections.

A low turnout in future elections, the Islamic system ruling over Iran might lose its control over spontaneous protests and developments, Khatami has asserted.

The widespread anti-regime protests in late December 2017, early January 2018, triggered a heated debate between the conservative and reformists camp dominating the country.

Lack of freedoms and economic hardship forced people to pour into the streets, across Iran demanding their rights.

"Reformists, Principlists (conservatives)! Your day is over," millions of people chanted across the country.

Although several officials, including President Rouhani, called for listening to the voices of disgruntled citizens, thousands were detained and persecuted.

Marginalized by hardliners, reformists such as Khatami have called for national unity, especially at a time of foreign threats.

Nonetheless, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ruled out the call, noting, "While the whole nation is united, calling for national reconciliation is meaningless."

Despite, Khamenei's derisive comments about Khatami's proposal, several reformists have increased their attempts to approach their conservative rivals.

A prominent reformist and the head of reformists strategic committee, Mohsen Rohami told pro-reform daily Sazandegi on July 6, "A joint commission has been active since two years ago to decrease disputes between the reformists and conservatives, and it holds bi-weekly sessions."

One of the main aims of the joint committee, Rohami said, is to stop people losing their hopes in the ballot boxes.

A joint commission established two years ago between reformists and conservatives to insure turnout in elections is trying to include members of the ultraconservative Front of Islamic Revolution Stability (FIRS), as well, a reformist politician has disclosed.

Approaching FIRS members by the reformists is quite an unprecedented development since the former has always been insisting on the necessity of eliminating the reformists from Iran's political arena.

Attempts toward approaching FIRS have enraged more left-leaning reformists who say they are not going to vote for "bad" against "worse," and should the political situation not "really change," they will not vote, at all.

Reacting to the warning, a senior reformist, former minister and political prisoner, Behzad Nabavi, has fired back by noting that "People's passionate participation in the elections is crucial for preserving national security," adding, "We (reformists) do not know any other way, but participating in the elections."

Iranian heavyweight reformists, including Khatami and Nabavi, are sometimes very critical of the way the country is run but they cannot openly call on the Supreme Leader to account for the problems the country faces. At the same time, they defend the core ideology of the Islamic Republic and oppose pro-Western, secular forces.

Nevertheless, the conservative allies of Ayatollah Khamenei have banned Khatami from attending public gatherings in recent years. Mainstream media have been ordered to keep away from any news or images related to the former President.