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.
Iran: Early Results Show Reformists and Moderates Drawing Votes in Iran Elections | The New York Times
Preliminary results released Saturday in Iran indicated that reformist and moderate candidates were set to expand their influence after two important elections, state news media quoted the Interior Ministry as saying. More than 30 million Iranians voted Friday in the two elections, one for a new Parliament and the other for an influential clerical council. The elections were the first since the completion of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program that included the lifting of economic sanctions against the country, a deal supported by the reformist camp and opposed by hard-liners. Voter turnout for the two contests exceeded 60 percent, according to the Interior Ministry. The reformist and moderate list of candidates for the 290-member Parliament appeared to be headed for victory in the Tehran area, according to preliminary results announced by election officials and reported by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. Representatives from Tehran, the capital, control 30 seats in Parliament and generally determine the political direction of the body.
President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May. “No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.” Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament). The president suggested he would resist attempts by far-right, fundamentalist elements to improperly leverage money, influence, or advertising in order to influence voters. “Hopefully no one will be told that so-and-so from the government, the Revolutionary Guards, the military, the media, the regional or local government, or the mosques, supports so-and-so as a candidate for the majles,” he said. “Such talk constitutes poison for otherwise healthy elections. All officials and people in positions of power are duty bound to serve the interests of the nation as a whole and not those of [particular] political parties or individuals.”
Friday’s election in Iran was surprising on multiple fronts. Perceived reformer Hassan Rouhani won a majority of the vote in the first round, clinching the presidency to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has held that position since 2005. Iranians took to the streets in celebration during the weekend to recognize not only Rouhani’s unlikely victory with 50.7 percent of the vote, but also the process itself which, unlike 2009, did not appear to be rigged by the country’s ruling elites. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely felt pressure to give way to the majority rule due to the country’s economy, crippled by international sanctions, and the series of uprisings throughout the region. Protests that began in the Arab Spring in late 2010 continue to roil in countries such as neighboring Syria and Turkey.
Hassan Rouhani has hailed his election as Iran’s president as a “victory of moderation over extremism”. The reformist-backed cleric won just over 50% of the vote and so avoided the need for a run-off. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran when the result was announced, shouting pro-reform slogans. The US expressed concern at a “lack of transparency” and “censorship” but praised the Iranian people and said it was ready to work with Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged continued international pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear programme. “The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure on Iran for it to stop its nuclear programme,” Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to a statement released by his office.
Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying the votes the nation’s presidential election, with a surge of interest in the contest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate in the field. But with only a fraction of the vote counted, it was uncertain whether any single contestant would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week. With long lines at the polls Friday, voting hours were extended by five hours in parts of Tehran and four hours in the rest of the country. Turnout reached 75 percent, by official count, as disaffected members of the Green Movement, which was crushed in the uprising that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, dropped a threatened boycott and appeared to coalesce behind a cleric, Hassan Rowhani, and the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf. Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, said Saturday morning on state television that preliminary results showed Mr. Rowhani with a strong lead, followed by Mr. Ghalibaf. Mr. Najjar did not say when the final result would be available. Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters and as of late Saturday morning nearly eight million votes had been counted.