Iran president's allies make stunning polls gains in Teheran

The Shargh newspaper with the headline reading "Decisive victory for the reformists". The pro-Rouhani coalition is on course to wipe out its conservative rivals in Teheran.
The Shargh newspaper with the headline reading "Decisive victory for the reformists". The pro-Rouhani coalition is on course to wipe out its conservative rivals in Teheran.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

They sweep all 30 parliamentary seats in capital, sealing comeback for reformists

TEHERAN • Reformist allies of Mr Hassan Rouhani swept all 30 parliamentary seats in the Iranian capital, handing the moderate president a major boost yesterday in elections seen as vital to his government.

The List of Hope, a pro-Rouhani coalition of moderates and reformists, was on course to wipe out its conservative rivals in Teheran with 90 per cent of the votes counted from last Friday's general election.

The result in the capital is significant because Teheran lawmakers usually determine the political direction of the legislature, analysts say.

 

The head of the conservative list, Mr Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel, a former Parliament Speaker, was lagging behind in 31st place in Teheran and set to lose his seat, said an interior ministry statement quoted by state television.

The landslide win in the capital, in Iran's first election since a landmark nuclear deal last year ended a 13-year stand-off with the West, was a major fillip for Mr Rouhani.

If confirmed, it will seal a stunning comeback for reformists, long sidelined after the disputed re-election in 2009 of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformists said that ballot was rigged and their two defeated candidates, Mr Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mr Mehdi Karroubi, have been held under house arrest since 2011.

Friday's election came just a month after international sanctions were lifted under last summer's nuclear deal and was widely considered as a de-facto referendum on Mr Rouhani's administration.

The president joined forces with reformists to try and curtail the conservatives' hold on Parliament and clear the way for the passage of political and social reforms.

The head of the pro-Rouhani coalition, Mr Mohammad Reza Aref, a former vice-president, was in first place in voting in Teheran, with 1,323,643 votes. The outspoken Ali Motahari, a conservative MP who switched sides and joined the slate headed by Mr Aref, was in second spot with 1,185,398 votes.

Outside Teheran, where 135 seats out of 260 have been declared so far, 38 went to the main conservative list and 30 to the List of Hope.

A further 36 seats went to independents - of whom 16 are known to lean towards conservatives and 13 are close to reformists, with the others of no clear affiliation. None of the remaining 31 seats had a clear winner, meaning a second round of voting will be needed, which is not expected until April or May.

Turnout in the election was solid at 60 per cent, but slightly less than the 64 per cent of 2012.

Conservatives were also experiencing setbacks in the election to the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member group of clerics that would pick Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's successor if he dies in the next eight years.

Two of three ayatollahs that the pro-Rouhani list had urged voters to reject were set to lose their seats.

Even after all votes are counted by interior ministry officials, the Guardian Council's verification is not expected for several days.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Iran president's allies make stunning polls gains in Teheran'. Print Edition | Subscribe