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Moderates and reformists make major gains in Iranian elections

Iranian vote gives reformists and moderates a majority in Iran’s parliament [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 February, 2016

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Allies of Iran's reformist President Hassan Rouhani win a landslide victory in parliamentary elections as moderates take 59 percent of the assembly of experts, official results revealed on Monday.
Iranian reformists and moderates won most seats in parliament and the assembly of experts, official results released by the interior ministry showed on Monday.

Iranian reformists, who supported President Hassan Rouhani's historic nuclear agreement with the West, won at least 85 seats.

Moderate conservatives, who were spilt on the nuclear deal, won 73, giving the two camps together an overall majority against the hard-liners in the 290-seat assembly.

In a major setback, hardliners won just 68 seats, down from 112.

Five seats went to religious minorities, while 59 seats will be decided in a runoff, likely to be held in April, as no candidate won the majority.

Although none of the country's three main political camps will dominate in the next parliament, the assembly is likely to be supportive of President Hassan Rouhani.

Elected in 2013, Rouhani pledged to relax restrictions on social freedoms and better engagement with the West.

But such promises can only be fulfilled if Rouhani has the support of the majority of parliament, although its vote alone is not expected to herald large-scale change in Iranian policies.

Reformists and moderate conservatives are expected to work together, at least on economic issues, making it more likely for Rouhani to deliver on promises to promote social freedoms.

Meanwhile, moderates have also won a 59 percent majority in the assembly of experts elections.

The 88-member body will choose the successor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been the country's top decision-maker since 1989.

The health of the 76-year old has been fragile as he underwent a prostate surgery 2014.

A list of potential supreme leaders was drawn up in December by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate former president and member of the assembly who retained his seat following the elections.

But a number of prominent hard-liners, including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, were also re-elected.

Jannati is the leader of the Guardian Council, an unelected, constitutional watchdog that vets election candidates, and has been a leading opponent of democratic reforms.

He has also led efforts to disqualify reformist candidates, including the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Iranian reformists last rose to power in 1997 with the election of President Mohammad Khatami and secured a majority in parliament three years later.

But the pendulum soon swung back toward hard-liners, who dominated Iranian politics from 2004 until Rouhani's election nearly three years ago.

Khamenei, who makes all final decisions on major policies, insists he is above the political fray.

But the supreme leader remains deeply suspicious of the West and has warned that too much openness to Western influence could dilute the country's Islamic values.

Agencies contributed to this report.


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