Rouhani: The people have showed their power

By David Blair

Hassan Rouhani has worked to ease tensions with the West. Photo / AP
Hassan Rouhani has worked to ease tensions with the West. Photo / AP

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hailed the beginning of a "new chapter" yesterday after moderate candidates made sweeping gains in the country's elections, winning all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran.

For the first time in almost two decades, reformists and centrists overcame obstacles in their path to achieve significant advances in two elections - one for the Majles, or Parliament, the other for the Assembly of Experts, a powerful representative body.

Some of Iran's most notorious hardliners were cast into the political wilderness, including Ayatollah Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, the spiritual mentor of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who lost his assembly spot.

In Tehran, the Coalition of Hope, an alliance of reformists, centrists and pragmatic conservatives, achieved an emphatic triumph, claiming every seat.

Winners in first and second place were Mohammad Reza Aref, a former Vice-President, and Ali Mottahari, a sitting MP who is now Aref's main ally.

The leader of the hardline candidates in Tehran, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a former speaker of Parliament, joined the prominent casualties of the election.

A member of Iran's political aristocracy - his daughter is married to a son of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader - he came in 31st place, losing him his seat in Parliament.

The Coalition of Hope drew less support outside Tehran. Of 94 seats declared by yesterday, conservative hardliners have won 29, independents have taken 25 and the coalition 19.

There was no clear winner in the remaining 21, meaning a second round will be required in April.

But the coalition has 49 MPs so far, meaning its target of winning at least 100 of the 290 seats in Parliament appears within reach. The remaining voting results are expected in the next few days.

The emerging outcome is largely what Rouhani, the moderate President, will have wished for. The Coalition of Hope, which supports last year's nuclear agreement and backs Rouhani's efforts to ease tensions with the West, has won a significant presence in Parliament, while the ranks of the hardliners who bitterly oppose him have been thinned out.

Rouhani said the moment had arrived to "open a new chapter in Iran's economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities".

He added: "The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected Government."

During the last days of campaigning, the re-elected Mottahari gave a sign of how things might change. "We believe our Islamic Republic is holy, but this doesn't mean we cannot criticise," he said. "If we want to say there is no mistake in this system and everything is correct, this is not right.

"Even in the Prophet's time there were some mistakes. We can't say, 'It's an Islamic Republic, we must keep quiet.'"

- Daily Telegraph UK

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