Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now out of favor 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 him, others dislike his chief of staff, accused of trying to undermine Iran’s theocratic system.
Sixty-five of parliament’s 290 seats went to run-offs, including 25 in the capital Tehran where initial results were split between the two main conservative fronts. Confirmation was expected later on Saturday.
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 70 elected so far may help him in what is expected to be a tough final year in office.
The political outlook of these MPs, mostly elected in the provinces, is little known, but some may ally with the president because he backed their electoral campaigns, analysts say.
Khamenei endorsed Ahmadinejad’s 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 Ahmadinejad 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.
Among the five confirmed winners in Tehran, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, an ally of Khamenei and father-in-law to his son Mojtaba, won most votes. He may be a contender to replace Ali Larijani, a fierce Ahmadinejad critic, as parliament speaker.
The election will have no major impact on Tehran’s nuclear or foreign policy, which are determined by Khamenei.
Iran and world powers meet in Baghdad on May 23 to discuss their dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. The West suspects Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its activities are legitimate and peaceful.