Conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were leading in the race for parliament,according to early election results on Saturday,an indication the Iranian president may face a more hostile house in the remaining 18 months of his second term in office.
The strong showing by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Friday’s parliamentary elections also reflected staunch support for Iran’s theocracy and its firm stance in the nuclear standoff with the West.
Early returns today in the capital Tehran showed Khamenei loyalists have pulled ahead. Partial results from provincial towns also show conservative Ahmadinejad rivals were elected
in many constituencies.
Out of 189 winners that emerged by noon,at least 97 were conservative Ahmadinejad opponents. Also elected were six liberal-leaning candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad. The remaining 86 seats were split between Ahmadinejad supporters and centrists. Authorities said 15 seats will have to be decided in runoffs.
In an embarrassment for Ahmadinejad,his younger sister Parvin was defeated by a conservative rival in their hometown of Garmsar. Gholam Ali Haddad Adel,whose daughter is married to Khamenei’s son,was leading in Tehran,followed by other Khamenei loyalists.
Another Ahmadinejad opponent and current parliament speaker,Ali Larijani,won a seat from the city of Qom,a religious centre.
The conservatives’ lead had been expected as the balloting for the 290-seat parliament had boiled down to a popularity contest between two conservative camps – those opposing Ahmadinejad and those backing the president.
A win by his rivals will weaken Ahmadinejad’s camp ahead of the 2013 presidential race.
The state media said the balloting was a snub at Iran’s enemies who had allegedly hoped for a low turnout that would show divisions and a weakened Islamic theocracy,making it easier for the West to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme.
International media were surprised by the high turnout, state TV proclaimed today.
It was a slap in the face of the US The front-page headline in the hard-line daily Kayhan Saturday said the enemy was checkmated.
The elections were the first major vote since Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June 2009 and the mass protests and crackdowns that followed.
With the opposition crushed in the brutal crackdowns over the past three years and major reformist factions absent from polling stations,the outcome of the elections is unlikely to
change Iran’s course over major policies including its refusal to halt uranium enrichment that the West fears is geared toward weapons making,military and oil policies.