The Observer: Religious conservatives in Iran – who had been guaranteed a strong showing in the country’s new parliament following the barring of many Reformist candidates from standing in Friday’s elections – appeared last night to have secured up to 70 per cent of seats. The Observer
Ahmadinejad faces growing conservative unrest
Peter Beaumont in Tehran
Religious conservatives in Iran – who had been guaranteed a strong showing in the country’s new parliament following the barring of many Reformist candidates from standing in Friday’s elections – appeared last night to have secured up to 70 per cent of seats.
Despite the strong inherent bias towards the conservatives – or ‘Principalists’ – who had vowed to protect the values of the country’s Islamic revolution, some of those conservatives also included strong critics of the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Critics, including some among the Basij militia which supported his election as president, say Ahmadinejad has failed in efforts to fix the economy of this oil-rich nation. They blame him for high inflation, surging unemployment and fuel shortages. They also blame him for the worsening stand-off with the West, bringing UN sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.
In the 115 of parliament’s 290 seats decided so far, pro-Ahmadinejad hard-liners won 42 seats and Reformists 16, according to results announced by state television and the official news agency Irna and reports from local officials.
A slate of conservative critics of Ahmadinejad had seized 28 seats so far. Another 29 winners were independents whose political leanings were not immediately known. Reformists were hoping at least to form a minority bloc larger than their approximately 40 seats in the outgoing parliament. But the results so far pointed to how deeply the movement was hurt when Iran’s hardline clerical leadership threw many of its candidates out of the race.
Before Friday’s voting, the unelected Guardian Council used its powers to disqualify 1,700 candidates on grounds of insufficient loyalty to Islam or Iran’s 1979 revolution. As a result, Reformist candidates were running in only about half of the races nationwide and many of them were little known to the public. The results so far did not include Tehran, where reformist sentiment is strongest.
More than 65 per cent of Iran’s 44 million eligible voters cast ballots on Friday, Interior Ministry spokesman Hasan Khanlou said. That was up from 51 per cent in the 2004 election when hardliners took parliament from Reformists, after many liberals were barred from running.
Before the vote, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei – who has the final say in all state matters – appeared to give his support to the Ahmadinejad camp. ‘The next parliament will definitely be more critical of Ahmadinejad and they will try to expose him more,’ said an Iranian political analyst, who did not wish to be named. The analyst said splits had opened up among conservatives jockeying for position before the 2009 race for the presidency.
While no official results were available, the semi-official Fars news agency said early indications showed more than 70 per cent of seats had gone to ‘Principalist’ candidates. Challenges to Ahmadinejad might emerge even from a conservative-led assembly as politicians manoeuvre before next year’s presidential vote and home in on his economic policies. which are blamed for inflation, the biggest gripe for ordinary Iranians.
Fars said Ali Larijani, a conservative seen as a potential rival to Ahmadinejad, had won 76 per cent of the vote in his Qom constituency south of Tehran.