Rouhani and his ally, former president Rafsanjani, could play a role in picking the next supreme leader
Iran’s moderates have dealt another blow to the country’s hardliners, winning a majority of seats in the Assembly of Experts, a clerical council empowered with choosing the nation’s supreme leader.
Iran’s Interior Ministry, which gave the final results for last week’s vote for the clerical assembly, announced on Monday that moderates won 59 percent of the seats in the body.
Top moderates, including President Hassan Rouhani and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both won seats in the assembly, along with 50 of their allies, giving them a majority in the 88-member body.
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The vote was held at the same time as the country’s parliamentary elections. The final results of that vote were expected later on Monday.
As the moderates claimed an historic victory, several prominent hardliners, including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, were also re-elected.
Jannati is also the hardline leader of the country’s Guardian Council, an unelected, constitutional watchdog that vets election candidates. He has been the most potent force to oppose democratic reforms and disqualify reformist candidates from the parliamentary balloting and also the clerical assembly vote.
Jannati and his allies in the Guardian Council disqualified Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, from running in Friday’s vote.
“So far the reformists have been the winners, and the results in Tehran signal people’s dissatisfaction with the conservatives,” Rohollah Faghihi, a Tehran-based political analyst and journalist, told Al Jazeera.
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Another former president, Mohammad Khatami, was also banned from running for office, and the publication of his name or photo is currently prohibited. But moderate candidates in both parliament and the Assembly of Experts rode on his popularity.
The most surprising was the loss of seats on the clerical assembly for some prominent hardliners, including Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the current Experts Assembly chief, who was not re-elected.
Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, the spiritual leader of hardliners and mentor of former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also lost his seat in the assembly.
The Assembly of Experts serves a function similar to that of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals, and will one day have to pick a successor to Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assembly can also directly challenge Khamenei’s rule, something it has not done before.
The assembly is elected every eight years. After Khamenei, 76, underwent prostate surgery in 2014, speculation was renewed about the state of his health.
Friday’s twin elections for parliament and the clerical assembly were the first to be held in Iran since it struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers last year that brought about the lifting of crippling international sanctions.
The moderates previously held around 20 seats in the assembly and their win is seen as an expansion of their influence within the powerful body.
As for the parliamentary elections, none of Iran’s three main political camps – reformists, conservatives and hardliners – are expected to win an outright majority in the 290-seat house. But partial results so far indicate the best reformist showing in more than a decade.