Middle East

Iran elections: Hardliners lose parliament to Rouhani allies

An Iranian woman holds a girl as she casts her vote during a second round of parliamentary elections, in Shiraz, Iran April 29, 2016 Image copyright Reuters/Fars News
Image caption Women gained the highest number of seats since the 1979 revolution

Run-off elections have given moderates and reformists a working majority in the Iranian parliament for the first time in more than a decade.

Supporters of President Hassan Rouhani won 42% of the 290 seats, short of an outright majority but comfortable enough to pass his legislative plans.

Independents took nearly 30% and many of them are said to be reform-minded.

Women took a record 17 seats, the most since the 1979 revolution, and more than clerics gained.

Hardliners won just under a third of seats in a humiliating performance, a BBC correspondent reports.

Why Iran's moderates must capitalise quickly

The run-off was held on Friday in constituencies where no candidate had won the minimum 25% of the vote at the first round in February.

The results are regarded by many as an endorsement of the nuclear agreement that the government of President Rouhani signed with the US and other world powers to curtail Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

Rouhani can be happy - analysis by Kasra Naji, BBC Persian

Image copyright Reuters

President Hassan Rouhani will look at the results of the run-off elections with a good deal of satisfaction. The moderate and independent candidates have dwarfed his hard-line opponents.

Many of the independents are generally believed to be supporters of the government. This means he will have little trouble in the next parliament, which is due to start work in less than a month from now.

His first priority, according to his Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, is the introduction of bill to guarantee citizens' rights - a major step, he hopes, that will improve human rights in the country and the rule of law.

But he still faces other centres of power that are in the hands of the hardliners, who may block his every effort to steer Iran towards moderation.

'Issue by issue'

Of the 17 women who won seats, at least 11 are considered moderates, AFP news agency reported. It almost doubles the number of women in parliament, giving women the same share of seats as countries including such as Thailand, Nigeria and Haiti.

In February, reformists also made gains in elections for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints the country's most powerful official, the Supreme Leader.

Dr Sanam Vakil, an associate fellow at Britain's Chatham House think tank, said the swing power of independent lawmakers would make for combative politics in Iran.

"It's going to be issue by issue," she told Reuters news agency.

"I don't think we should expect a group of independents to be supportive of any political, social and cultural liberalisation."

Analysts say that although the parliamentary elections are not expected to herald large-scale changes in Iranian policies, they could help President Rouhani push through economic and social reforms.