The agenda of the reformers included reviving a vibrant press, encouraging the formation of conventional political parties, streamlining government ministries and enacting budget. But above all else, they had to work out a modus operandi with their conservative adversaries and foster a genuinely democratic culture, which had been missing so far. "The factions have to learn how to cooperate with each other - and they will learn," said Abbas Salimi Namin, the managing director of the Tehran Times.
Iran's politicians are still new at competing as pragmatic political adversaries and not as arch enemies bent on destroying one another. We don't have much experience in this. The role of the parties - how they should be controlled, how they should work with each other - it's not very clear to us. 1
Iran's parliamentarians also had to realize that however sweeping their popular mandate, the Majlis was just one of several power centers, and that it was hemmed in by the Guardians Council, a bastion of conservatives. In the case of a dispute with the Council, the Majlis majority could take its case to the Expediency Consultation Council System, presided by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. But, given the ignominious battering he had received in the parliamentary poll at the hands of leftist reformers - constituting the bulk of the reformist camp - he was unlikely to take kindly to it.
As expected, the first test came with the Press Law. On June 18, a letter signed by 150 MPs, forming a clear majority, was read out in the chamber. Noting the closure of eighteen publications with a total circulation of over one million, it urged the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Shahroudi, to free the press and respect the rights of prisoners of conscience.
But this had no impact on the Press Court which persisted in curbing the remnants of the pro-reform print media. Five days later it shut down the Bayan (Narrative) daily edited by Hojatalislam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, chairman of the reformist May 23 Front. In mid-July it sentenced Imameddin Baqi, an Islamic thinker and an editor at the Neshat (before its closure), to five-and-a-half years in