The results of Iran's May 4 parliamentary runoff elections showed a strong defeat for the nationalist conservative faction led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Of the 65 seats in contention, pro-Ahmadinejad candidates won only 13. Candidates aligned with Iran's clerical leadership, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, won 41, and independents won 11. The runoff results, combined with the results of the March 6 general elections, give the pro-clerical establishment United Front of Conservatives coalition, led by parliamentary speaker and Khamenei ally Ali Larijani, 98 seats in the 290-member parliament. The pro-Ahmadinejad Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution has 43, with other political parties and independents taking the rest.
Ahmadinejad has become a threat to the hegemony of Iran's clerical leadership, but Khamenei has been able to contain the president using advantages given to the supreme leader by the Iranian Constitution. The electoral defeat will lead to stronger parliamentary pushback against the president's appointees and initiatives during his final two years in office.
Notably, the elections saw 19 total parliamentary seats going to candidates unaffiliated with any party. These include unknowns who secretly support Ahmadinejad, true independents, and reformists who ran as independents since most open reformists were barred from running. Ahmadinejad's faction may attempt to win support from these new lawmakers, but regardless of how they vote, their numbers will not be not enough to allow the embattled president to counter his cleric-backed rivals.
The Iranian parliament already had moved to leverage its advantage ahead of the runoff elections, stripping Ahmadinejad of his presidential oversight of Iran's state-owned energy assets and the banks. It also began a series of judicial proceedings against Ahmadinejad appointees. This likely will continue with the placement of Khamenei's inner circle into key government positions as the supreme leader prepares for Ahmadinejad to step down in 2014 and readies an ally as replacement.
One such move could involve the position of parliamentary speaker. If Khamenei attempted to nominate his son-in-law and former speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, it would free Larijani to run for president in 2013. Facing a weakened populist conservative base and a structurally fragmented reformist party, Larijani would have a better chance of winning than he did in his previous attempt in 2005.