Conservatives still dominate parliament but Ahmadinejad foes gain strength

Conservatives consolidated control of Iran's legislature in run-off elections but opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gained strength, according to final results. The results, released Saturday, indicate that the hard-line leader is growing increasingly vulnerable ahead of a bid for re-election next year. The conservative majority in the 290-seat parliament is divided between supporters of Ahmadinejad and opponents who say he has mishandled a nuclear standoff with the West and concentrated too much on fiery, anti-US rhetoric while neglecting the economy. Within the conservative bloc, Ahmadinejad's supporters added 27 seats to the 90 they won previously. His moderate opponents gained 11 on top of 42 from the first round in March, according to final results released by the Interior Ministry. Reformists, who favor greater democracy, closer ties with the West, and reducing clerical powers in Iran, made a respectable showing even after most of their candidates were barred from running. They added at least 15 seats to the 31 they won in the first round - a gain of six seats over the 40 they have in the outgoing parliament. Independents picked up 32 seats on top of 39 they won in the first round. Results for three seats were annulled by the Interior Ministry for unspecified reasons.