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Big election setback for Ahmadinejad

Dubai, May 5, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now out of favour with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suffered more setbacks in a run-off parliamentary election seen as a pointer for next year's presidential race, results showed on Saturday.

The authorities hailed the outcome as a resounding triumph for Iran as it prepares for nuclear negotiations with the West.

Results announced by the Interior Ministry showed the United Principalist Front, closely linked with Khamenei and critical of Ahmadinejad, leading Friday's vote, but with the hardline Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution close behind.

The allegiance of the Resistance Front is tricky to fathom. It also backs Khamenei, but some members have served under Ahmadinejad. Some still support the president, others dislike his chief of staff, accused of trying to undermine Iran's theocratic system.

Many successful candidates appeared on the lists of both fronts, making it difficult to gauge the core leaning of the lawmaker in question.

Sixty-five of parliament's 290 seats went to run-offs, including 25 in the capital Tehran where the United Principalists took 11 seats to the Resistance Front's nine. Three winners appeared on both lists and two others were on a labour coalition list.

As in the first round, parties directly aligned with Ahmadinejad did not fare well, but independents had a strong showing and some of the more than 80 candidates who won seats may help him in what could to be a tough final year in office.

The political outlook of these parliamentarians, mostly elected in the provinces, is little known, but some may ally with the president because he backed their campaigns, analysts say.

Khamenei endorsed Ahmadinejad following his disputed 2009 re-election, rejecting opposition allegations of widespread fraud that led to eight months of the worst unrest in the Islamic Republic's history.

But the president alienated Iran's top authority by making his own policy decisions. Critics homed in on his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, accusing him of leading a 'deviant current' bent on undermining the political role of the clergy.

Analysts say Ahmadinejad will probably see out his term without impeachment - a prospect which had seemed increasingly likely last year.

'There'll inevitably be friction with the next parliament but he'll continue to be a force in Iranian politics and he'll pursue his own policies,' said Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University.

Among the five candidates elected in Tehran in the first round, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, an ally of Khamenei and father-in-law to his son Mojtaba, won most votes. He may replace Ali Larijani, a senior figure for the United Principalist Front and one of Ahmadinejad's biggest rivals.

While Iran's authorities have hailed the election as a show of robust democracy in the Islamic Republic, the vote will have no major impact on Tehran's nuclear policy which is determined by Khamenei.

Iran and world powers meet in Baghdad on May 23 to discuss their dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme. The West suspects Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its activities are legitimate and peaceful.-Reuters




Tags: Iran | Khamenei | Ahmadinejad | elections | setback |

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