Iran conservatives tighten grip on top oversight body

AFP , Monday 14 Aug 2017

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced a new hardline head of one of the country's top oversight bodies on Monday, while former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kept his seat despite a string of controversies.

The appointment of former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Expediency Council means Iran's conservatives have tightened their grip on a key institution despite recent election successes for reformists.

The Expediency Council plays a critical role in shaping policy and resolving disputes between different power centres.

For years it was chaired by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the central figures of the Islamic revolution who sought to chart a middle ground between Iran's hardliners and reformists.

But his death in January has opened the way for conservatives to assert their influence.

Shahroudi, a 68-year-old who led the judiciary for a decade, has been touted in the past as a possible successor to Khamenei.

The new line-up of 44 members of the Expediency Council, who are appointed for five-year terms, includes hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi and outgoing Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, both defeated by moderate President Hassan Rouhani in May's presidential election.

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion was Ahmadinejad, a hardliner whose controversial populist style as president between 2005 and 2013 saw him eventually fall out of favour with the establishment.

He was barred from running in May's election and several corruption cases have been opened against him in recent weeks.

Mohammad Reza Aref, head of the reformist faction in parliament, was one of the few progressives included in the list despite their recent successes in legislative elections in 2016, and their critical role in helping Rouhani win re-election in May.

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