Iran's major internal power shift

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Iran's major internal power shift

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The most senior of Iran’s spritual leaders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has emerged the de facto winner of the legislative elections which were held on Friday.

His allies won a majority of seats in parliament, reinforced by a reportedly high turnout (64 percent).

This has been interpreted as boosting the legitimacy of the country’s religious leadership.

Accusations of fraud marred the presidential elections in 2009.

Then, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory. This time, Iran’s president comes out the clear loser, as his allies won only seven percent of the seats in parliament, while Khamenei’s took 75 percent of them.

It appears to be a price paid by the president for his populist nationalism, in the eyes of the Iranian religious elite who see him as a threat to their supremacy in the Islamic Republic.

Moreover, it reflects deep discontent over Ahmadinejad’s economic policy, with an inflation rate, according to Tehran, of 21 percent (though unofficially it is 50 percent).

Now comes something that has never happened: the president has been summoned to appear before parliament to answer for his government’s performance and corruption allegations. If Khamenei gives his consent, Ahmadinejad might even be called on to step down.

Analyst Emad Abshenasan said the president is in a critically weakened position: “The government of Ahmadinejad will definitely try to increase its interaction with the new parliament. Government officials will try to avoid a showdown with parliament.”

The Ayatollah exercised his power by countermanding the president in April by reinstating the minister of information, whom Ahmadinejad had been sacked. With parliament firmly behind him, the Supreme Guide could now even abolish the presidency, with the support of the electorate to whom the president owes his office. In this case, the political system would change to one operating with a prime minister.