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Iran's Local Elections Bring Reformists and Pragmatists Back, Losses for Ahmedinejad

Dec. 18, 2006 (EIRNS)—The elections in Iran held Dec. 15, for city councils and for the Assembly of Experts (the body that advises and selects the Supreme Leader), have brought back into political life, both reformers and moderate conservatives, who had been largely divested of power during the last elections.

Most significant was the showing of Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was President for two terms after the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, but who had been severely defeated in the run-off election against Ahmadinejad 18 months ago. His humiliating defeat then was due to an extraordinarily mobilization of right-wing forces by Ahmadi, as well as widespread dislike (or even hatred) of Rafsanjani, who is considered the symbol of corruption, with stories going around about his vast private resources, including real estate in Canada, and so on.

Rafsanjani won this time around, coming in first place in the list in Tehran for the Assembly of Experts, with over 1 million votes. Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a supporter of Ahmadinejad, was in sixth place, with about half as many votes. He is expected to keep his seat. Other clerics allied to the President and Mesbah-Yazdi failed to win seats.

Rafsanjani's victory was due in large part to the alliance forged in the campaign between his "pragmatist" group (or "centrists") and the reformists associated with former President Khatami. Khatami campaigned openly for Rafsanjani, and for a high turnout, which could help their effort. The turnout was over 60%. Rafsanjani was photographed voting side-by-side with Mohammad Khatami. Khatami had also stressed the importance of unity against the government, which is seen as authoritarian. "One lesson that has been learned for the Assembly of Experts vote is for Rafsanjani's supporters. They should appreciate unity and moderation," said the Kargozaran daily.

Mohammad Atrianfar, a leading reformist politician who has worked with Rafsanjani for 25 years, was featured on German TV, hailing the victory. Atrianfar gave EIR a lengthly interview prior to the elections, which is being written up for publication.

In the Tehran city council elections, though vote tallies are not complete, Ahmadinejad's supporters got about 4 seats (of 15), one of them the President's sister; the rest of the council seats went to moderate conservative backers of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf (who had also run for President) and reformists, including at least three former cabinet ministers. Initial results from around the country show that city councils will have a representation from the conservative, centrist and reform fronts.

The reformists are celebrating. "The initial results of elections throughout the country indicate that Mr. Ahmadinejad's list has experienced a decisive defeat nationwide," the biggest reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front, said in a statement. "These results were tantamount to a big 'no' to the government's authoritarian and inefficient methods," it said.

Although some Western press is saying that the vote indicated the people's rejection of Ahmadinejad's staunch nuclear policy, this is wrong. No one opposes the program, or that the government is fighting for it. The real issue is the economy.

A leading reformist intellectual, very close to Khatami, told EIR today that he found the vote for Rafsanjani "strange," because it was such a reversal. When asked is the economy were the main issue, he said, "Yes, the economic and social issues. People expected a radical change" with Ahmadinejad, he said, "but they have seen no results."

Iranian press reported on a meeting between Khatami, Rafsanjani and reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi about "concerns" over the vote counting. "We need to know why the Interior Ministry is not announcing the results. According to our information the reformists are ahead" in Tehran, said Esmail Gerami, a spokesman for Karroubi's reformist party, according to the ISNA agency. Karroubi had been severely hit by electoral tricks in the Presidential election.

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