Photo credit: Morteza Nikoubazl/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Ian Black
Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday’s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces.
A coalition of candidates supported by the reformists, dubbed “the list of hope”, is likely to take all of the capital’s 30 parliamentary seats, according to the latest tally released by the interior ministry, in surprising results seen as a strong vote of confidence in Rouhani’s moderate agenda. Mohammad Reza Aref, a committed reformist who has a degree from Stanford University in the US, is at the top of the list.
Preliminary results for the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing the next supreme leader, showed Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key Rouhani ally, leading the race. Elections to the assembly are usually a lacklustre event but have attracted huge attention this time because of the age of the current leader, 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei and Rafsanjani, a prominent pragmatist who was not allowed to run for president in 2013, have been at odds in recent years.
Results may not be finalised until Tuesday but if they tally with the initial figures there will be a palpable change in the Iranian political landscape with moderates dominating the scene and hardliners being pushed back to the fringes. Strong gains by supporters of Rouhani could help promote greater opening to the west by Iran and limit political advances by conservatives at home – and secure him a second term in office next year.
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