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Rohani, Reformist Allies Win Control Of Iran's Powerful Assembly Of Experts

Source: RFE/RL

Final results from Iran’s February 26 elections show relative moderate President Hassan Rohani and his allies winning a majority in the powerful Assembly of Experts and making a strong return to parliament as one of three dominant blocs.

The "list of hope" candidates running in Tehran took all seats except for one.
(source: Arman daily)

The elections were Iran's first since international sanctions were lifted in connection with a landmark nuclear deal in July, and reformist gains against hard-liners will almost certainly affect Tehran's efforts to rebound from decades of political and economic isolation.

The strong showing by the reformist-and-moderate camp came despite intense vetting that moderates said had excluded many of their preferred candidates, and appeared to be most pronounced in the capital.

Rohani and centrist ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani easily won seats in the Assembly of Experts, the chamber of clerics that chooses and supervises Iran's most powerful official, the supreme leader.

In all, reformist-backed candidates claimed 52 of the assembly's 88 seats, according to the Interior Ministry, including 15 of 16 races in Tehran. In doing so, they managed to unseat several prominent hard-liners, including the current chief of the assembly, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, and Ayatollah Taghi Mesbah Yazdi.

But several prominent hard-liners were reelected to the assembly, including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who narrowly clung to his seat. Jannati also heads the Guardians Council, the unelected, constitutional watchdog that disqualified hundreds of reformist candidates from the parliamentary and assembly votes.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (L) and Ayatollah Taghi Mesbah Yazdi (R) were voted out, while Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati (C) retained his seat.
. (source: Ghanoon daily)

After the voting, the conservative head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, accused reformists of working with “American and English media outlets” to prevent hard-liners from being reelected to the Assembly of Experts.

"Is this type of coordination with foreigners in order to push out these figures from the Assembly of Experts in the interests of the regime?" Larijani asked in a statement on February 29, referring to Yazdi's and Mesbah Yazdi's election defeats.

During its next eight-year term, the assembly could name the successor to fiercely anti-Western Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 76 and has been in power since 1989.

Reformists had urged voters to cast ballots for a coalition of pro-reform and relative moderate candidates to prevent the reelection of hard-liners and ultraconservative clerics.

Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli on February 29 announced a final combined turnout figure of 62 percent among Iran's 55 million or so registered voters.

The parliamentary vote count and seat allocation was continuing. But none of Iran's three main political camps -- the moderates and reformists, the independents, or the conservatives and hard-liners -- was expected to win an outright majority in the 290-seat legislature, known as the Majlis.

Still, the partial results so far indicate the best reformist and moderate showing in more than a decade.

Rohani and his reformist allies won all 30 of Tehran's contested seats in the parliamentary vote.

Elsewhere in the country, the parliamentary results appeared to be split.

Reports suggested as many as 50 seats had no clear winner and could require a second-round runoff vote in April or May.

INFOGRAPHIC: This Is How Iran Is Ruled (click here)

With reporting by Reuters, AP, IRNA, and ISNA

Copyright (c) 2016 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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