12/18/2006, 00.00
IRAN
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Iran elections: Ahmadinejad’s “Sweet Smell” of defeat

by Dariush Mirzai
Despite untoward delays in releasing election results, it would appear that moderates and even progressive have won. Great success for the “pragmatist” Rafsanjani.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Friday elections were not a test for the government, it was clear what he meant. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani won and reformers are back. However, delays in announcing results are raising fears that they might be manipulated.

Iranians on Friday cast their ballot for municipal governments, some parliamentary by-elections but above all for the Assembly of experts, which is elected (for eight years) only by Muslims and is made up of 86 mullahs who have the power to choose and even impeach supreme leaders.

The elections in some areas where less than fully democratic because the Council of Guardians, a body which decides which candidates who can run, left voters with no choice but to choose candidates from a list equal to the number of seats to be filled.

Still participation was high—62 per cent. And President Ahmadinejad used this to wax poetry about a “glorious era”, the “people’s victory” and the “neutralised Western conspirators”. Foreign Affairs spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini also cited voters’ turnout to claim that the Iranian people backed Iran’s foreign policy.

In fact, Iran’s richest man, head of the Expediency Council and mentor to the Supreme Leader for all government departments, Rafsanjani is now one the regime’s “experts”. Even better for him, he got 1.3 million votes against 840,000 for his closest rival, the ayatollah Meshkini, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani’s real rival, extremist Mesbah-Yazdi, came in only sixth, with 726,000 votes. He was Ahmadinejad’s preferred choice.

The outcome might be a prelude to major changes. Seen by some as the power behind the throne, Rafsanjani can be happy after having the people reject him twice. Now he can glow in the legitimacy conferred by the democratic process and hope that he might one day succeed Iran’s current Supreme leader and head of the armed forces Ali Khamenei.

Friday’s elections also marked Ahmadinejad’s second defeat. Although details about the vote are trickling in slowly, Tehran’s current mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former police chief and ex presidential candidate, is likely to win re-election. He and his predecessor, Ahmadinejad himself, belong to the same conservative party, Abadgaran (Development), but many of Ahmadinejad’s followers left it to launch their own campaign under the leadership of the president’s own sister, Parvin, whose campaign was called the ‘Sweet Smell of Service’. The new party won fewer votes than Ghalibaf’s, but if he wins the outgoing mayor will have however to form a coalition with reformers and independents. Unless, that is, charges of irregularities already made the president’s men do not change things.

Meanwhile, reformers, allied to the pragmatic conservative Rafsanjani, are back. Theirs is no renaissance—a few seats in local governments and perhaps three by-elections—but it is a start. One of their candidates, a woman named Soheila Jelodarzadeh, might even make into the Majlis (parliament). However, results have not yet been released.

 

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Ahmadinejad’s popularity dropping
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15 December vote crucial for Assembly of Experts
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