Analysis: Ahmadinejad loses power as Larijani elected speaker

New role gives Larijani influence in many areas, may serve as springboard for presidential candidacy.

Larijani 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Larijani 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be losing power in the local political arena, with the election of his political adversary Ali Larijani as parliament speaker. Larijani, a close ally and foreign policy consultant of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanai, won a landslide victory in the parliamentary vote, defeating Ahmadinejad's favorite, former speaker Ghoulam Ali Hadad Adil. Larijani served as chief nuclear negotiator until late 2005, when he resigned over differences of opinion with the president's non-compromising hard-line view regarding the nuclear program. The massive support Larijani enjoys within Iran's parliament and the Guardian Council, combined with his powerful position as parliament speaker, will enable him to guide the parliament according to his views, at times at the expense of Ahmadinejad. His election will give him power to influence Ahmadinejad's policies on many levels, including "the controversial budget next year... the ratification of legislation... and the debate between the Majlis [parliament] and the Guardian Council," Prof. Anoush Ehteshami of the International Relations Department at Durham University in England told The Media Line. But as powerful as his current position may be, Larijani may regard it as just a launching pad to a much higher position - that of Ahmadinejad's. While the Iranian president is hoping to secure a second term in office, analysts see Larijani as an obvious candidate for next year's presidential election. "You have got a front-runner of the conservative camp, close to the [Supreme] Leader, taking on the current conservative president," said Ehteshami. According to Ehteshami, Larijani's election sends a warning to Ahmadinejad and his considerable support base, particularly within the Revolutionary Guards, that there are other conservative forces that are jockeying for the presidency, and that the president is no longer able to "ride the conservative wave" in the absence of the reformists. This has been Ahmadinejad's second major hurdle in the last few months, after the election last September of another political adversary - ex-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - as head of the Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani, who served as Iranian president between 1989 and 1997, won his current position at the expense of Ahmad Jinati, considered a strong ally of Ahmadinejad and among the leaders of the extremist current in the Iranian administration. The Assembly of Experts is in charge of electing and dismissing the Supreme Leader.