Conservatives Told to Mend Costly Ways

Conservatives Told to Mend Costly Ways Conservatives Told to Mend Costly Ways

Conservatives need to move away from their aggressive approach which cost them their long-time, absolute dominance over the Parliament and an influential clerical body in last Friday's elections, where rival reformists and moderates made stunning and largely unexpected gains, said a reelected moderate conservative lawmaker from Tehran.  

Ali Motahari, an outspoken conservative who had switched sides to join the winners' list, told ISNA on Wednesday that the extraordinary reformists' landslide victory was partly an outcome of the public backlash against conservatives' extreme positions and smear campaigns.

"The gains by reformists in Tehran were beyond expectations. I, myself, thought that about 20 reformists and 10 conservatives would win in Tehran. In my view, the smear campaigns against the reformist-moderate list, including accusations of alleged British links, affected the public vote and prompted an adverse reaction."

Candidates on a joint ticket fielded by an alliance of pro-government moderates and reformists swept all 30 parliamentary seats and 15 out of the total 16 seats in the Assembly of Experts exclusive to the capital Tehran.

The members of the assembly, who serve for an eight-year term, are tasked with appointing and dismissing the leader of the Islamic Revolution and overseeing his performance.

The idea of forging the coalition emerged after the conservative-dominated Guardians Council, a group of clerics and jurists in charge of vetting candidates, rejected as unfit an overwhelming number of those who registered for the twin  elections, among them many prominent reformists and moderates.

Conservatives are strongly against President Hassan Rouhani's reform plans to open the economy and attract foreign businesses and investment, claiming it would expose the ruling establishment to what they see as "corrupting" western influence.

When campaigning for the elections, they accused the few who got through the Guardians' strict vetting process and were on the coalition's list of links with the "hostile" British government.

  JCPOA Effect

Public enthusiasm for the recently implemented nuclear deal championed by Rouhani is also thought to have significantly bolstered his allies in the polls, first after the accord was clinched last year.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the agreement is formally known, placed temporary constraints on Tehran's nuclear program and, in return, gave Iran relief from sever international sanctions.

The removal of sanctions has rekindled the Iranians' hope by raising the prospects for the long-awaited economic boom.

Prominent conservative critics of the action plan were defeated in the election.

"Some positions adopted by the conservatives in the past few months, including on the JCPOA or the recent foreign deals to buy commercial aircraft, affected the vote of Tehran's residents and further drove them toward the reformists," Motahari said.

"I believe the public vote sent an unambiguous message to the authorities and some politicians. They should take the message seriously that imposing unjustified, harsh restrictions and mounting smear campaigns will never help isolate top figures."

He said "real" conservatives are those who will help prevent "extremists from seizing the initiative" in the incoming Parliament.

There will be run-offs in late April to decide 69 of the total 290 Majlis seats, representing 59 constituencies where candidates failed to secure the minimum required 25% of the vote.   

Gholamali Haddad Adel, the leading conservative candidate who held the 31 position and lost his parliamentary seat in Tehran, predicted that his fellow conservatives will outperform the rival bloc in the second round of voting.

"The overall outcome of the 10th parliamentary vote will in fact be decided in the second round. It can be realistically anticipated that more conservatives will be elected," he claimed, IRNA reported.

Unlike in Tehran, both the reformists and moderates made limited gains in other cities.