Ahmadinejad sidelined as conservatives sweep Iran poll
Published Saturday, May 5, 2012
Final results for many Iranian parliamentary constituencies announced on Saturday show supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad relegated to a small fraction of the legislature, hugely outnumbered by the conservatives who once backed him.
Iran has touted the turnout for Friday's elections as a show of support for the country's religious leadership in their confrontation with the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
It also represents another blow against the president who, while allied with the conservatives on foreign policy and many other issues, has lost out in recent months to candidates deemed to be closer to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The new parliament will begin its sessions in late May. It has no direct control over major policy matters such as Iran's nuclear program, but it can influence the run-up to the election of Ahmadinejad's successor in 2013.
Of 65 seats up for grabs in Friday's runoff election, Ahmadinejad's opponents won 20 while the president's supporters received only 8. Independents won 11, according to the state media early on Saturday.
Results for the rest of the seats, including the capital Tehran, are expected later in the day. About nine Ahmadinejad supporters are likely to win seats in Tehran where they were in a neck-and-neck race. The president's opponents are almost certain to win the remaining 16 seats.
Ahmadinejad's opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March.
Iran's major reformist parties, who oppose both Ahmadinejad and the conservatives, did not field candidates for the most part.
The results suggest Ahmadinejad will face a more belligerent parliament in the remaining time of the second four-year term in office that ends August 2013.
Iran's media has claimed that the turnout on Saturday matched that of the initial round of voting on March 2, when 64 percent of voters reportedly cast ballots.
Iranian leaders have showcased the high voter turnout as a sign of trust in the clerical-led system and rejection of Western pressure over the nuclear issue.
"The vote is support for the ruling system as it faces the US and its allies over the nuclear program...The vote also means that tensions will increase between Ahmadinejad and his opponents in the incoming parliament," political analyst Ali Reza Khamesian said.
Ahmadinejad was voted in for a second term in 2009 in a hotly disputed election with the backing of the clerical establishment.
But he has seen his political fortunes decline sharply after he was perceived to have defied Khamenei in April 2011 over the appointment of an intelligence chief and tried to expand the authority of the presidency.
Khamesian said Ahmadinejad was gradually fading from Iran's political scene, but could still stir up conflict with parliament.
"Ahmadinejad is the losing party. So, he will try to create tensions in the hope of getting concessions," he said.