Conservative opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took an early lead in Iran's local elections, according to partial results announced by the Interior Ministry on Monday. The trend appears to be an embarrassment for Ahmadinejad whose anti-Israeli rhetoric and unyielding position on Iran's nuclear program have provoked condemnation in the West and moves toward sanctions at the UN Security Council.
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Partial results of Friday's polls provided by the Interior Ministry suggested that Ahmadinejad's allies had largely failed to win control of local councils. Instead, candidates supporting Teheran Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative opposed to the president, have taken the lead.
The partial results also indicated that reformers were making a comeback, after having been suppressed in the parliamentary elections of 2004 when many of their best candidates were barred from running.
From the results declared on Monday, it looked as if Qalibaf supporters were due to win seven of the 15 seats on the Teheran City Council seats and reformists would get another four seats. Three seats would be won by the president's allies and one would go to an independent.
In the elections for the Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of 86 senior clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor, opponents of the president also appeared to have done well.
Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 election runoff, won a Teheran seat on the Assembly of Experts with a high number of votes.
By contrast, an ally of the president, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, won an assembly seat with a low toll. Yazdi is regarded as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.
A political analyst, Mostafa Mirzaeian, said Iran's political lineup was changing in favor of moderate voices within the ruling Islamic establishment.
"The elections have united reformers. Results also show that a new coalition has developed between reformers and moderate conservatives at the expense of hard-line extremist who support Ahmadinejad," he said.
Final results in many cities in outlying parts of Iran also showed that the president's supporters had fared poorly. In Bandar Abbas, a port city in southern Iran, not one of Ahmadinejad's allies won a seat on the council.
The turnout was more than 60 percent.
More than 233,000 candidates ran for more than 113,000 council seats in cities, towns and villages across the vast nation on Friday. Local councils elect the mayor and approve community budgets and planning projects.
All municipal council candidates, including some 5,000 women, were vetted by parliamentary committees dominated by hard-liners. The committees disqualified about 10,000 nominees, according to reports in Iranian newspapers.