Analysis | Victors Announced in Tehran Parliamentary Runoff
by DAN GEIST
05 May 2012 21:34
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Majles deputies reelected from Tehran: Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, Ahmad Tavakoli, and Ali Motahari. (Homepage: Bijan Nobaveh.)
9:45 p.m. IRDT, 16 Ordibihesht/May 5 Bijan Nobaveh was the top vote getter among the 25 victorious candidates from the Tehran electoral district in the runoff parliamentary elections held Friday, reports the Islamic Republic News Agency. In the initial round of voting, on March 2, only five candidates had secured enough votes to secure one of the Tehran constituency's 30 seats. Fifty candidates vied for the remaining 25 on Friday; altogether, 130 candidates competed around the country for the 65 Majles seats that were undecided after the voting two months ago -- a total of 290 deputies serve in the Iranian parliament.
The cutoff for election from Tehran in the second round came to just under 255,000 votes. Nobaveh, who currently holds a seat in parliament, led all 50 candidates with a reported 449,799 votes. He ran as a member of a candidates' list, or loosely organized party, known as Jebheh Paaydaari-e Enghlelab-e Eslami (Stability Front, or Durable Front, of the Islamic Revolution), whose spiritual leader is the ultra-conservative cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. The Stability Front is one of the three main groups of conservatives, now customarily self-identified as "principlists" in Iran, to compete in the election. The largest of the three groups is Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgarayan (United Front of Principlists), led by Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani and his deputy, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. In the Islamic Republic's intricate governmental structure, the Assembly of Experts is the body that selects the Supreme Leader and, at least putatively, has the power to remove him from office. The third major principlist group is Jebheh Eistaadegi Enghelab-e Eslami (Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution), led by former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief Mohsen Rezaei, currently the secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council, which arbitrates disputes between the Majles and the Guardian Council, the state's constitutional watchdog body, and acts as an advisory board to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Principlists within and outside these groups, along with independents who focused on regional or other relatively narrow issues, comprised virtually all of the viable candidates in the 2012 parliamentary campaign. While some candidates proclaimed themselves to be "reformists" or were so labeled in the state media, the two main reformist parties -- the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin -- have in fact been outlawed, while other groups identified with the reformist movement or aligned with it -- such as the National Trust Party, closely associated with former Majles Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and the Executives of Construction Party, closely associated with former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- have effectively been suppressed since the disputed 2009 presidential election. The leaders of several of these groups have been imprisoned, and Karroubi has been under extra-legal house arrest since February of last year. With a few exceptions, such as Dariush Ghanbari and Soheila Jelodarzadeh, almost all of the well-known politicians who are widely regarded as reformists (and not currently in jail) boycotted the 2012 vote. Former President Mohammad Khatami, however, shocked many by casting a ballot after he had repeatedly called for reformists, and Iranians in general, to avoid participating in the election if minimum human rights and electoral transparency conditions were not met.
The next top three vote getters in the Tehran runoff are prominent representatives of the capital district in the current Majles. Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, deputy chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, came in second with a reported 431,771 votes. A former Revolutionary Guard officer, he ran as a United Front candidate. Third and fourth, with 404,595 and 380,653 reported votes respectively, were Ahmad Tavakoli and Ali Motahari, leading political adversaries of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Motahari ran as the head of a list known as Jebheh Montaghedan-e Dolat (Government Critics Front), composed of opponents of the Ahmadinejad administration, on which Tavakoli also appeared. Indicating the looseness of these associations, and their ideological similarity, Motahari also appeared on the Resistance Front's list. Once known as an advocate of very conservative views, Motahari now espouses positions somewhat more moderate than the principlist norm, but he is by no means a reformist, and the Critics Front group announced that it would not enter into a coalition with nominally reformist candidates.
Other prominent figures to win reelection from Tehran in the runoff included Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar, former Revolutionary Guard officer Ali Reza Zakani, and Elias Naderan, who has spoken out frequently against the Ahmadinejad administration. All are identified with the principlist camp.
related reading | Iran's Parliamentary Elections, Part I: The Political Landscape | Iran's Parliamentary Elections, Part II: The Role of the Military | Virtual Votes: Questions over New Electronic Election System | Iran's Conservatives: The Headstrong New Bloc
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