Iran General NewsIran reformists question conservative gains

Iran reformists question conservative gains


New York Times: Conservative politicians close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to tighten their grip on power in Iran as the government on Monday announced final results of the first round of parliamentary elections.
The New York Times

Published: March 18, 2008

TEHRAN — Conservative politicians close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to tighten their grip on power in Iran as the government on Monday announced final results of the first round of parliamentary elections.

Conservatives controlled about three-quarters of the more than 200 races decided so far in the 290-seat Parliament, said the Interior Ministry, which runs the elections, the semiofficial FARS news agency reported.

After state-run television announced Monday that 19 of 30 seats in Tehran, the capital, had been won by conservatives, the reformists accused the government of irregularities in counting the votes. Public support for reformists is thought to be strongest in the capital.

The results for the provinces showed that conservatives had won 163 seats of 260 and that reformists had won 35. The winners of about 47 seats were described as independents.

Candidates had to win at least 25 percent of the vote to be declared the winner in the first round. The winners of the remaining seats will be determined in runoff elections in May.

None of the outspoken conservative critics of the president who ran on opposition lists won seats. However, Ahmad Tavakoli, who often criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad’s economic policies but ran on the slate supporting the president, won his race. Ali Larijani, who resigned as Iran’s negotiator over its nuclear politics because of differences with the president but who ran on his slate, was another political heavyweight who won a seat.

Reformists close to the former president, Mohammad Khatami, voiced anger over the results in Tehran, accusing the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the president, of irregularities in the process.

Madjid Ansari, a reformist candidate, said the results in Tehran “shocked everyone.” He said the reformists had received reliable reports as votes were being counted that 10 reformists were among the winners.

It was not clear how the reformists would immediately pursue their complaints, because the country’s New Year holiday begins on Wednesday, with government agencies closed until Monday and newspapers not publishing for two weeks.

Reformists have also complained that the results were largely determined before the election. About 1,700 of their candidates were barred from running by the conservative Guardian Council, which vets all candidacies. Reformists were left with candidates for only about 100 seats.

None of the 35 reformists who took seats in Parliament are prominent politicians. That led the reformist daily newspaper Etemad to express concern that the reformists would be without adequate leadership for their causes in Parliament.

The Kargozaran, another reformist daily newspaper, said it was hard to know what to expect, because 154 members of the previous Parliament were either kept off the ballot or lost their races.

The European Union, in a statement issued Friday in Brussels, denounced the election as “neither fair nor free.”

On Monday, state radio issued a response from the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, who rejected the charges and called the European statement “spiteful, hasty and politically motivated,” and unacceptable to Iran.

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