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Iran: Conservatives Extend Control After Parliamentary Runoffs

Iranian conservatives have consolidated their control of the country's legislature in runoff elections. Eighty-two seats in the 290-seat parliament were at stake in voting on April 25 after the first round last month assured conservatives of a crushing victory over reformists.

Officials say conservatives have won 69 percent of seats in parliament and reformists 16 percent. But conservatives are split between supporters of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and those who criticize him, especially over the economy.

Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi told journalists on April 26 that independent candidates won more than 14 percent of the seats. The results include seats won outright in the March 14 first round of the elections and those won in the second-round runoffs.

Purmohammadi said the percentages were based on final election results from 287 seats in parliament.

Earlier reports said conservatives would control 29 of 30 seats in the capital, Tehran, with one going to the reformists.

No Conservative Unity

But Ahmadinejad, whose policies have alienated many conservatives, is expected to face increased opposition in the new conservative-controlled parliament.

The Iranian press, including the Tehran daily "Hamshahri," quoted the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, as accusing Ahmadinejad of "exaggeration, unrealistic campaigning, and sloganeering."

The comments came after Ahmadinejad declared "open war" against what he called the "economic mafia" and "financially corrupt" people in high positions. In a speech in the city of Qom on April 16, the president also blamed some ministries and government offices as well as foreign "enemies" for all the economy's shortcomings.

In the past week Ahmadinejad has been locked in a bitter public row with parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel over implementing past legislation.

In his farewell speech on April 22, outgoing Economy Minister Davud Danesh-Jafari blamed Ahmadinejad and his close associates for being directly responsible for Iran's economic crisis.

Ahmadinejad, who is expected to run for a second term as president next year, has come under fire for pumping excessive liquidity into the economy, which has been blamed for skyrocketing inflation that some experts say is closer to 30 percent than the official rate of 18.5 percent.

Reports said second-round turnout appeared to be down sharply on the first round of voting, when the authorities hailed participation of around 60 percent as a blow to Iran's enemies.

The West reacted with suspicion after the conservative victory in the first round, which the United States called "cooked."

Hundreds of reformist candidates were disqualified in preelection vetting for not meeting the criteria required.

Conservatives advocate strict adherence to the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution, while reformists push for greater economic liberalization accompanied by cautious social change.

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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