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Iran

Iran: Election Results Show Anti-Ahmadinejad Vote

<div class="caption"><div class="watermark"> <a href="http://gdb.rferl.org/0EDA86D3-6508-4E6B-8194-DC49D0C1835D_mw800_mh600.jpg" rel="ibox" title="Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (file photo) (epa)"> <img alt="Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (file photo) (epa)" src="http://gdb.rferl.org/0EDA86D3-6508-4E6B-8194-DC49D0C1835D_w203.jpg" class="photo" border="0"></a></div><p>Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (file photo) (epa)</p></div>December 19, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's Interior Ministry has released the final results from the December 15 elections for the Assembly of Experts, and they give former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani -- a moderate conservative -- a rousing victory with more than 1.5 million votes.

By Golnaz Esfandiari

Rafsanjani's victory in the Assembly of Experts -- the powerful body that oversees the work of Iran's supreme leader -- is regarded as a setback for hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.


Partial results from the municipal councils elections also show that Ahmadinejad's allies losing badly to reformers and moderate conservatives in city councils all over the country.

The outcome is "not the result that President Ahmadinejad would have hoped for."

Hard-Line Candidates Lose


According to elections results released today, moderate conservatives loyal to Tehran mayor and former presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf were due to take a majority of the seats on Tehran's 15-member city council.


Qalibaf's allies are followed by reformists, who are likely to gain four seats.


If the current trend continues, Ahmadinejad would only get about three seats. The president's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, is in tenth place. But Ahmadinejad adviser Mehrdad Bazrpash and cabinet secretary Massud Zarbafan are trailing badly in the 27th and 28th positions.


The vote in Tehran seems to reflect a trend seen around the country.


Safdar Husseini, the reformist coalition's provincial campaign coordinator, said in Tehran on December 18 that of the 1,524 people who have been declared winners in municipal elections around Iran, 605 can be considered reformers, 438 as conservatives, 429 as independents, and only 52 on the list of Ahmadinejad's allies, the ILNA news agency reported.


Rafsanjani Triumphant


The results comes amid a victory for former Iranian President Rafsanjani in the elections for the Assembly of Experts. The assembly is theoretically Iran's most powerful body and can select and dismiss the supreme leader.


Rafsanjani, who was handily defeated by Ahmadinejad in Iran's 2005 presidential election, gained about twice as many votes as a cleric considered to be the president's mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. Yazdi will retain a seat in the assembly but most of his allies failed to gain enough votes to be elected to the 86-member clerical body.


Such results are being viewed as a stunning defeat for Ahmadinejad, who was facing his first test of popularity in the December 15 elections.


Some observers suggested that the results indicate a rejection of the "extremist policies" by the Iranian president.


Four days after the elections, the official final results of the elections to Tehran's city council have not been released and there is nervousness among reformers who are concerned about vote tampering.


Slow Counters


The deputy head of Iran's pro-reform Ettemad-e Melli party, Rassoul Montajabnia, spoke to Radio Farda about such concerns on December 18.


"All the ballots from Tehran have been counted and the results are clear, but [officials] won't announce [the final results]," he said. "They're making excuses, they're stalling for time, and this in itself brings doubt. If there is no problem, if there are no behind-the-scene talks, then why didn't they release the results [already]?"


Those concerns are heightened by the fact that Ahmadinejad's allies are responsible for the counting of the votes. His close aide, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, is the head of the central election committee.


But on December 18, government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said the government does not work in the interest of any particular political group. He said "It is not important for us who is the winner of the elections."


ILNA reported that later today former Iranian reformist President Mohammad Khatami will meet with Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi and the parliament speaker in order "to preserve the people's vote" and prevent any intervention by government officials.


On December 18, several reformist legislators went to Tehran's governorate and protested against the slow pace of vote counting and the announcing of the results.


No Comment From President


Today, senior election official Seyed Ali Riaz described the election process as "transparent" and said votes are being counted with great precision. He did not, however, say when the final results for Tehran will be released.


Meanwhile, the United States was the first country to comment publicly on Iran's election results. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said on December 18 that the outcome is "not the result that President Ahmadinejad would have hoped for."


Ahmadinejad, for his part, has not mentioned the election results thus far. During at speech today in Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad preferred to once more emphasize Iran's right to nuclear energy and warn the international community about imposing sanctions against the country.


(Radio Farda broadcaster Behrouz Karooni contributed to this report.)

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