Iran's Assembly of Experts, the body that appoints and can dismiss the country's supreme leader, has picked an ultraconservative as its new head in a surprise move.
Iranian news agency IRNA says Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the deputy chairman of the 86-member body, received 47 votes during a closed-door meeting attended by 73 clerics.
Yazdi, 83, headed the judiciary for 10 years and was a deputy speaker of parliament after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Hiss election follows the death in October of the former chairman, Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani.
Yazdi was among five contenders whose names had been linked to the post, but he had not been seen as the frontrunner.
His election represents a setback for former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a relative moderate who previously held the position between 2007 and 2011, and who received 24 votes.
The assembly monitors Iran's supreme leader and picks a successor after his death.
The clerical body grants the leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an indefinite term but has the power to dismiss him if it sees fit.