03/02/2016, 20.03
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Partial victory for Rouhani’s moderates and problems to come

by Darius Karimian

The reformer-moderate block tripled its seats over previous elections. They also improved their results in the election to the Assembly of Experts. In the new parliament, there are 14 women, mostly reformist. The more conservative and radicals leaders have been ousted. Iranians approve Rouhani’s line, the nuclear deal, a normalised foreign policy and a revamped economy. Some doubts remain about to Khamenei and the Pasdaran.

Teheran (AsiaNews) – Hassan Rouhani’s reform-moderate block won last week’s elections (26 February) to Iran’s Parliament (Majlis), and the Assembly of Experts. However, neither they, nor the conservatives have an absolute majority.

Out of 290 parliamentary seats, conservatives won 103; reformers-moderates won 95, with 14 independent. The pro-Rouhani camp can count on four moderate conservatives (supported by the reformers) and five representatives of religious minorities. Meanwhile, 69 seats will be decided in a runoff.

In the outgoing parliament (elected in 2012), reformers had only 30 seats (because of a boycott); now they have three times as many.

The most striking results came in Tehran where pro-Rouhani candidates swept the field, electing eight women. Now 14 women, mostly reformer will sit in the house. In the old parliament, there were only nine women, all conservative.

The Conservatives, who held 200 seats in the last parliament, lost their majority. In addition, the most radical leaders, who opposed the nuclear agreements and normalised relations with foreign countries, lost out.

Reformers also had another symbolic victory in the Assembly of Experts, the body that elects the supreme leader. In Tehran, 15 out of 16 seats went to the pro-Rouhani camp and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani got the highest number of votes in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Two of the Assembly’s most conservative members, Speaker Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi and Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi were beaten and lost their seats. The Assembly, however, remains in the hands of a conservative majority.

Although conservatives prevailed in the rest of the country, a Tehran businessman said, "the hard-liners opposed to the nuclear agreement have been eased out. Rouhani received great support for his policy of normalising Iran’s foreign policy. Generally speaking, the pro-Rouhani group will have a slight advantage in the Majlis and in the country."

According to analysts, it is clear that Iranians backed Rouhani for ending the embargo and trying to revamp the economy. Young people, the most affected by the economic crisis, voted in large numbers for the president. Iran’s unemployment rate is 10 per cent, but it is 25 per cent among young people.

Now the issue is how the Supreme Leader and the Pasdaran will react. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei has certainly supported Rouhani on the nuclear agreement, but he continues to rail against the international community, in particular the United States. He could therefore hinder the president’s social and economic reform programmes, as too liberal.

The Pasdaran, the Guardians of the Revolution and Khomeini's legacy, have an army and control almost 80 per cent of the national economy, playing a crucial in sanctions busting. It is still unclear how they will go along with Rouhani’s liberalisation. Indeed, the old establishment continues to fear criticism and popular demonstrations.

Still, "People who went to vote in the large numbers (60 per cent turnout) do not want Iran to be an international pariah,” said another businessman. And young people explicitly show their contempt for the “ayatollahs living off the fat of the land" as well as the Pasdaran’s moralising.

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