Reformist and moderate Iranian politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won second round parliamentary elections, preliminary results said on Saturday, capping a remarkable comeback after years of isolation.
The outcome represents a significant realignment of competing factions in the Islamic republic, with conservative MPs losing their dominance and being outnumbered for the first time since 2004.
The result is also an implicit public vote of confidence for Rouhani, who won a landslide election victory in 2013 and went on to clinch a historic deal with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme that lifted sanctions.
Tallies also showed 17 women were elected — eight more than at present and the highest female representation since the country’s revolution in 1979.
Almost a quarter of parliament’s seats were at stake in run-offs Friday in what was a showdown between reformists and conservatives seeking to influence the country’s future.
Although Iran’s parliament has marginal powers — under the country’s theocratic rule clerics can veto legislation — the result will make economic reforms easier and could also speed up social change demanded by reformists.
Their return as a major force is a shake up for hardliners in Tehran after an era of diplomatic clashes with the West over a nuclear programme that, before Rouhani, had left Iran under threat of military attack.
Most lawmakers who opposed the landmark agreement struck last year after years of talks with Tehran’s long-time foe the United States and other leading nations were rejected by voters.
That verdict should make Rouhani’s job easier.
Iran does not have rigid party affiliations, making election outcomes notoriously opaque. Some candidates were backed by both camps and others stood as independents.
But of the 68 seats being contested Friday, 36 went to the pro-Rouhani List of Hope coalition and 17 to conservatives with just four constituencies yet to be declared, according to official results.
That would give reformists at least 131 seats in the new 290-member parliament, 15 shy of a majority but more than their rivals’ 124 MPs. Remaining seats went to independents who could hold the balance of power.
The second round was needed because no candidate won the minimum 25 percent required in the first round.
In stark contrast to the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency the result should give Rouhani a supportive parliament. The outgoing conservative-led chamber repeatedly blocked him and even impeached one of his ministers.
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