Monday, February 29, 2016

Did The Iranian Reformers Win-- Or Did The Conservatives Have A Version Of Wasserman Schultz With A Finger On The Scales?


All the early reports out of Iran showed supporters of reformist Hassan Rouhani winning every district on Friday-- there are 30-- in Tehran, the capital and biggest city. Western media immediately jumped to the conclusion that the conservatives (the Pinciplists) had been vanquished. Even Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, who is the Principlists leader in Parliament (Majlis) and whose daughter is married to a son of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, lost his seat. Currently the party holds 165 seats (56.8%) to the Reformists, who are led by Stanford-educated Mohammad Reza Aref, 52 seats (17.9%).

Having driven from one end of Iran-- literally-- twice, I was immediately aware that Tehran isn't necessarily a harbinger for the rest of the country any more than results in New York City are for the U.S. A bloc of 30 seats from Tehran is important-- but what about the other 260 seats in Parliament-- not to mention the Assembly of Experts, which has 88 members and will appoint the next Supreme Leader. The BBC reported on Sunday that "early results gave former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative, and Mr Rouhani the most votes for the assembly, which is composed of mostly elder and senior clerics."

Full results of the 290 seat Parliament will not be declared until tomorrow but preliminary results from 239 districts as of now do not show a national rout of the hard-liners, but rather a very neck-and-neck race. Principalists have taken 64 seats (22.06%), Reformists 83 seats (28.62%) and Independents 55 seats (18.96%).

Yesterday the NY Times, covering the race from Tehran, reported that state television was reporting big wins for hard-liners outside Tehran. The hard-liners are a mirror image of the American Republican Party-- backward, superstitious hate-filled, frightened and reactive-- and they both agree that the nuclear treaty should not be allowed to stand. In Tehran, at least, they were overwhelmingly rejected, historically rejected. The map at the bottom shows the Reformists winning in blue areas and the Principlists in the yellow areas. We'll keep updating this page as more information filters in today.

This morning Reuters reported that "Rouhani and his allies won big gains in elections that could deepen Iran's engagement with the world after his government ended years of sanctions by agreeing to curb its nuclear program. The outcome in the results for Tehran on Monday was a blow to the conservative Islamic establishment, although it retains decisive power due to Iran's unwieldy dual system of clerical and republican rule. Most of the lawmakers who did not make it to the new parliament strongly opposed the nuclear deal, including Mehdi Koochakzadeh, who called Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif "a traitor", and Roohollah Hosseinian, who threatened to bury the negotiators under cement for agreeing to concessions to world powers."

Is was as though Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions had just lost their Senate seats and the whole Georgia delegation was ousted in the House.
"This election can be a turning point in the history of the Islamic Republic," said an editorial in reformist newspaper Mardom-Salari, whose managing editor, Mostafa Kavakebian, won a parliamentary seat in Tehran.

"The biggest achievement of this election is the return of reformists to the ruling system ... so they won't be called seditionists or infiltrators anymore," he said, referring to hardliners who accused reformists of links to the West.

Rouhani and allied centrists and reformers won 15 out of the 16 Tehran seats in the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with choosing the country's next supreme leader, final election results for Tehran showed.

Two prominent conservatives, including the speaker of the powerful clerical body, were among those ousted in the capital... Beyond the capital, their gains were more limited, with conservatives keeping hold of many seats in both bodies.

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