Iran elections weaken Ahmadinejad, bolster Supreme Leader Khamenei
President's rivals, however, see eye-to-eye on nuclear program; reformists barely take part as its leader remain in house arrest.
Preliminary results from Iran's parliamentary elections indicate that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's has as expected lost a significant amount of support. Many of his allies were replaced by other conservatives who belong to rival camps.
On Saturday, the Iranian media praised the high voter turnout, despite calls by the reformist camps to boycott the elections. During the run-up to the elections, the regime tried again and again to emphasize the importance of voting in light of the "critical" days Iran is facing. Even the wife of one of the slain nuclear scientists was called to the propaganda campaign. And Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, one of the most prominent clerics in Iran, published a fatwa saying that those who do not vote are committing a sin.
There were almost no candidates from the reformist camp, as two of its leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under house arrest for more than a year. Former President Mohammad Khatami took part in the elections , disappointing many in the opposition, as did the rival of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Yet these results do not come as a surprise – Khamenei has been planning to target Ahmadinejad politically. Khamenei has taken issue with the president, who he sees as overly-independent. One of the incidents the exacerbated the tensions were Ahmadinejad's efforts to fire the intelligence minister, who Khamenei wished to keep at his post.
Despite the various reports in the West, the political battle manifested in the parliamentary elections was not between Ahmadinejad's camp and Khamenei's camp – also because the former's allies had almost no chance in the ballot.
Rather, two rival camps had set their sights on politically 'eliminating' Ahmadinejad, and both are avid supporters of Khamenei: one is "the United Front of Conservatives," which include some well known politicians such as Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani. The list of members also include parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Tehran's mayor Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf - both considered bitter rivals of Ahmadinejad.
The second camp, "the Stability of Islamic Revolution Front," is home to some of the most extreme and almost messianic politicians, headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi.
The two camps are united on issues of Iran's nuclear program and opposition to Ahmadinejad and his deputy. Both also accept Khamenei's leadership with no qualms. It seems that the case in question is an inheritance battle between two Ayatollahs - Mesbah Yazdi on one hand, and Mahdavi Kani, - who leads the "experts council" that will one day choose Iran's next spiritual leader – on the other.