Rivals rout president in Iran’s runoff vote

Rivals rout president in Iran’s runoff vote

Rivals rout president in Iran’s runoff vote

AP Photo

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s support in the Parliament crumbled as final results released May 5 showed conservative rivals consolidating their hold on the legislative body in a runoff vote.

The result is also a new humiliation for Ahmadinejad, whose political decline started last year with his bold but failed challenge of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei over the choice of intelligence chief.

Ahmadinejad’s opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March. Of 65 seats up for grabs in May 4’s runoff election, Ahmadinejad’s opponents won 41 while the president’s supporters got only 13 seats, according to The Associated Press. Independents won 11, according to final results reported by state media.

There were no claims of irregularities, which touched off the huge protests in 2009 after accusations the results were rigged. But the ruling system vets the candidates in advance which eliminates the harshest critics. Iran’s major reformist parties, which oppose both Ahmadinejad and the conservatives, mostly did not field candidates.

The president’s supporters had their best showing in the capital Tehran. Ahmadinejad’s conservatives critics won 16 seats while his supporters took nine.

The new Parliament will begin its sessions in late May. It has no direct control over key foreign and security policy matters like Iran’s nuclear program, but it can influence those issues and economic policies as well as the run-up to the election of Ahmadinejad’s successor. Ahmadinejad is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive four-year term.

The results suggest Ahmadinejad will face a more belligerent parliament in the remaining time of his second four-year term in office that ends August 2013. His allies are likely to be ousted from key posts, and his plan to cut economic subsidies challenged.