Conservatives tighten grip on Iran parliament

AFP , Sunday 6 May 2012

Final results of the Iranian elections show that loyalists of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been reduced to a small fraction in the Islamic Republic's legislature, outnumbered by conservatives

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, talks, as his wife Azam al-Sadat Farahi, fills in her ballot during the parliamentary runoff elections in a polling station in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 4, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Iran's new legislature will be dominated by rival conservatives but the extent of support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains unclear, according to the results of a run-off vote released on Sunday by media.

Experts said the final shape of the 290-member parliament, or Majlis, would depend on how "independent" lawmakers and those endorsed by the two leading conservative groups align themselves when it convenes on May 27.

And the election of 196 new faces only adds to the uncertainty, they said.

The March 2 first round of the vote saw conservative lawmakers easily triumph, with 65 seats remaining undecided.

The run-off vote on Friday did not change the political direction of the conservative chamber that pledges fealty to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The United Conservatives Front, which is critical of Ahmadinejad, and the Front of Islamic Revolution's Endurance won a combined 44 seats, Fars news agency said.

The United Front will have a total of 65 seats in the new parliament while the Endurance has emerged with a total of 25.

Another 61 elected lawmakers have simultaneously been endorsed by both groups while other conservative factions managed to win 15 seats.

Reformist candidates, who had mainly boycotted the elections, lost most of their 60 seats in the assembly. They now will have only 21 representatives, including two won on Friday, in the new assembly.

The legislature will also welcome 98 MPs who ran on "independent" tickets, many of whom are unknown, but at least a dozen identify themselves as conservative.

And five deputies are from the recognised minority Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian faiths.

Experts say that it will not be clear exactly how much support Ahmadinejad can command until the new Majlis meets and makes decisions, including the appointment of its speaker.

The March 2 vote was the first nationwide election in Iran since 2009, when Ahmadinejad held on to power based on disputed results that provoked widespread protests and a severe crackdown by authorities, in particular against reformists.

According to figures provided by officials, turnout was 64 percent in the first round, which they presented as an electoral success.

On Sunday both the United Front and the Endurance claimed victory, expecting the loyalty of the 61 elected MPs they both have endorsed as well as that of the "independents."

Supporters of the United Front boasted in the media that the party would control the "majority of seats" parliament, through its 65 elected candidates.

"The elections show clear victory for the United Front," headlined the conservative daily Tehran Emrouz which is close to Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a critic of the Ahmadinejad government.

Meanwhile, the Endurance said it expects to count on more than 100 lawmakers in the new Majlis, including those 25 it managed to win.

The government daily Iran said that the two conservative coalitions would carry "equal weight" in the parliament, and argued that a big turnover in lawmakers reflected voter "discontent over the behaviour of the outgoing parliament" which did not see eye to eye with Ahmadinejad.

Reformist daily Etemad said no faction had managed to secure a majority but "all conservative groups are claiming victory."

It added that the pro-Ahmadinejad Endurance front "will try to introduce a candidate for presidency in 2013 after the success it enjoyed in the legislative elections."

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