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Rouhani And Reformers Wins Big In First Iran's Post-Nuclear Deal Election

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 28/02/2016 Chloe Angyal
ATHENA IMAGE © ATTA KENARE via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani won a strong vote of confidence and reformist partners secured surprise gains in parliament in early results from elections that could speed up the Islamic Republic's emergence from years of isolation.

While gains by moderates and reformists in Friday's polls were most evident in the capital, where they won all Tehran's 30 seats according to early results, the sheer scale of the advances there suggests a legislature more friendly to the pragmatist Rouhani has emerged as a distinct possibility.

A loosening of control by the anti-Western hardliners who currently dominate the 290-seat parliament could strengthen his hand to open Iran further to foreign trade and investment following last year's breakthrough nuclear deal.

A reformist-backed list of candidates aligned with Rouhani was on course to win all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran, initial results released on Sunday showed. Top conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad Adel was set to lose his seat.

"The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government," Rouhani said, adding he would work with anyone who won election to build a future for the industrialised, oil-exporting country.

"The competition is over and the phase of unity and cooperation has arrived," state news agency IRNA quoted his key ally, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as saying. "The time after elections is the time for hard work to build the country".

There was silence from the conservative camp.

The polls were seen by analysts as a potential turning point for Iran, where nearly 60 percent of its 80 million population is under 30 and eager to engage with the world following the lifting of most sanctions.

Principlists, otherwise known as hardliners, hold 65 percent of the outgoing parliament and the rest is divided between reformists and independents who traditionally support Rouhani.

"It is a very big victory," said analyst Saeed Leylaz, a former adviser to former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

"It is very good news for President Rouhani. We will have a very rational parliament, a less factional parliament, a more expert and technocrat parliament."

Foad Izadi, an assistant professor at the Faculty of World Studies in Tehran University said the reformists' strong showing was prompted by Rouhani's success in reaching a nuclear agreement between Iran and international powers, the removal of most of the sanctions that had strangled the country's economy over the past decade and restoration of relations with the West.

"It is a sweeping victory for Tehran but for other cities it is not yet clear cut. It is beyond expectations," he added.

Etemad, a reformist newspaper whose managing-editor Elias Hazrati won a seat in Tehran, chose the headline of "clean up in the parliament."

"The next parliament will be like no other parliament in the history of Iran as no political faction will have the absolute say," the newspaper said on its front-page.

Millions crowded polling stations on Friday to vote for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which selects the country's highest authority, the supreme leader. Both bodies have been in the hands of hardliners for years.

Supporters of Rouhani, who promoted the nuclear deal, were pitted against hardliners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are wary of detente with Western countries.

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