March 15, 2008


Hard-liners pull ahead in Iran vote, but Ahmadinejad critics show strength (AP, 3/15/08)

Hard-liners allied with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pulled ahead in Iran's parliamentary elections, according to partial results early Saturday, but the president's critics were making a strong showing that could unsettle his domination of the legislature.

In particular, conservatives who have grown disillusioned with the fiery Ahmadinejad appeared to be gaining ground. If such moderate conservatives do well, it could lead to greater friction between the parliament and Ahmadinejad.

Conservative critics say Ahmadinejad has fumbled efforts to fix the economy of this oil-rich nation, hit by high inflation and unemployment and fuel shortages. They blame his fiery manner for worsening the standoff with the West, bringing on U.N. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

In the 115 of parliament's 290 seats decided so far, pro-Ahmadinejad hard-liners won 42 seats and reformists 16, according to results announced by state television and the official news agency IRNA and reports from local officials speaking to The Associated Press.

A slate of conservative critics of Ahmadinejad seized 28 seats so far, according to the results. Another 29 winners were independents whose political leanings were not immediately known.

Reformists were hoping to at least form an effective minority bloc, larger than their approximately 40 seats in the outgoing parliament.

Conservative rift exposed in Iranian elections: As Iranians select a new parliament, some hard-liners question President Ahmadinejad's populism and blame his economic policies for rising inflation and unemployment. (Jeffrey Fleishman, 3/15/08, Los Angeles Times)
The campaign leading to the election revealed a split among political conservatives over the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad's supporters, including some ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, praise his defiance of the West and his tremendous appeal in the provinces. But others, such as former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, fault the president for what they regard as his overheated rhetoric toward the international community and for the country's continuing financial problems despite the surge in oil prices.

Larijani resigned his nuclear post in October after complaining that Ahmadinejad's statements often undercut his talks with Western officials on Iran's nuclear program. Larijani's campaign against Ahmadinejad, however, is mainly concentrated on domestic financial issues; hard-liners are unified on most policies, including relations with Washington.

"The criticism of Ahmadinejad among the hard-liners started months ago, and this election is a portrait of that," said Nader Karimijori, a political analyst and editor at a conservative newspaper. "They accuse him of economically mismanaging the country. What's happening now is that the divide among the hard-liners will be more visible."

Many reformists appeared dispirited, expecting a consolidation of power by hard-liners, although some predicted that reformists might win as many as 80 seats. The hundreds of reformists removed from balloting lists were accused of, among other things, not upholding the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"There might be an iota of change," Mullah Fazel Mibodi, a reformist supporter, said by telephone from Qom. "But the motivation for me to go out and vote was zero."

Another demonstration of how boycotting the voting hurts the reform effort and serves the extremists.

Iran's call to vote ignored by millions (David Blair, 15/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Iran's Supreme Leader cast his vote in parliamentary elections yesterday and, in his solemn and severe dark robes, told his compatriots that taking part was their "national and religious duty".

Yet millions of Iranians appeared to be registering a silent protest against the regime by ignoring Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's plea.

Polling stations across Tehran were quiet, orderly and only sparsely attended. One virtually empty polling station in a mosque on Dowlat Street pointedly declined to say how many people had voted by 3pm. "You are not allowed to know that," said the official in charge.

It's harder to steer voters than he yet understands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2008 7:40 AM

Isn't it wiser just to accept that this is what Khameini wants? He may not "like" Mahmoud, but he certainly doesn't want anyone to run (and win) without his personal approval. Reading anymore into it than that is just fizz.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 16, 2008 12:31 AM

Bingo! He wants the Reform and the reformer of his own choosing. Tough to manage in a democracy.

Posted by: oj at March 16, 2008 6:39 AM