Iran’s Rouhani vows to boost eco­nomic re­forms af­ter win

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

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 an­tiWestern 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 hard- lin­ers close to Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, who are wary of de­tente with Western coun­tries.

Rouhani and Rafsanjani led the race for the As­sem­bly of Ex­perts with most votes counted, and ap­peared to be sure of win­ning seats, early re­sults re­leased on Satur­day showed. Un­til now, the con­test for this seat of cler­i­cal power was an un­re­mark­able event, but not now. Be­cause of Khamenei's health and age, 76, the new as­sem­bly mem­bers who serve eight-year terms are likely to choose his suc­ces­sor. The next leader could well be among those elected this week.

Rafsanjani is among the founders of the Is­lamic Re­pub­lic and was its pres­i­dent from 1989-1997. Nearly al­ways at the cen­ter of Iran's in­tri­cate webs of power, the arch-fixer is fa­mous for his prag­ma­tism and political acu­men. Just one prom­i­nent hard­liner was on course to be elected in the ex­perts as­sem­bly race in Tehran -- Ah­mad Jan­nati, in 15th place out of the 16 seats re­served for the cap­i­tal's can­di­dates.

The as­sem­bly's cur­rent chair­man, Mo­ham­mad Yazdi, on 17th, and arch-con­ser­va­tive, Mo­ham­mad-Taghi Mes­bahYazdi, on 19th, ap­peared un­likely to win a seat, ac­cord­ing to par­tial re­sults. Mes­bahYazdi is a fierce critic of re­formists and has even ad­vo­cated vi­o­lence against its sup­port­ers. Af­ter dis­puted 2009 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Mes­bah-Yazdi strongly sup­ported of­fi­cial win­ner Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and was seen as his men­tor. A tally, based on of­fi­cial re­sults pub­lished so far, sug­gested the pro-Rouhani camp and al­lied in­de­pen­dents were lead­ing in the par­lia­men­tary vote. Some mod­er­ate con­ser­va­tives, in­clud­ing cur­rent speaker Ali Lar­i­jani, sup­port Rouhani.

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