Reformists Poised to Extend Electoral Gains

Reformists Poised to Extend Electoral GainsReformists Poised to Extend Electoral Gains

After their strong showing in the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections late last month, reformists are now gearing up for the 2017 presidential and city council polls, a leader of the camp said.

Reformists, a majority of whose prominent figures were denied an opportunity to run for the elections, joined forces with pro-government moderates to win all 30 seats in the 290-member parliament and 15 out of the 16 assembly seats representing the capital Tehran, Tasnim News Agency reported.

Runoffs have been scheduled for late April, when a total 138 candidates will compete to decide the fate of 69 Majlis seats reserved for 59 constituencies where hopefuls fell short of the required 25% of the ballot to win.

The head of the Reformist Policymaking Council said, "After the second round of the Majlis election, we plan to review reformist policies and prepare for a strong presence in the upcoming elections for city councils and president."

Mohammad Reza Aref, who topped the winners' list fielded by the reformist-moderate coalition for the parliamentary vote in Tehran, was addressing members and followers of the bloc on Saturday in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

Neither the alliance nor the rival conservative camp has managed to make decisive gains in other cities, so the outcome of the runoffs will largely shape the incoming parliament as it could put either side in control.

According to a breakdown of the Majlis returns for the first round, conservatives won 46% and reformists 37.5% of the parliamentary positions, with independent winners accounting for the remaining 16.5%.

Conservatives hold an overwhelming majority of the departing legislature and only 10% of the seats are occupied by reformist lawmakers.

  First Priority

"For the time being, reformists' top priority is to win at least 50% of the remaining seats" in the second round, Aref was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Standing on behalf of his camp in the 2013 presidential poll, he stepped down to consolidate the position of the ultimate moderate winner Hassan Rouhani.

Right after taking office, the Rouhani government stepped up diplomatic efforts to settle a decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, which had been used by the West as grounds to sanction the country's key economic sectors, including oil and banking.

About two years of negotiations between Tehran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) led to the July 14 nuclear agreement, which came into effect in mid-January to lift sanctions in return for temporary curbs on Iran's nuclear work.

Aref cited the removal of sanctions as evidence of the government's distinguished performance.

"As I have said on many occasions, such a gain as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will suffice to judge the performance of a government and decide whether it deserves to serve for another term," the former vice president said, referring to the deal by its official name.

He pledged that his camp will keep pushing the government to fulfill other popular demands.

The outgoing conservative-dominated parliament has strongly opposed Rouhani's plans to resurrect the sanctions-hit economy by opening it to international businesses that are expected to inject much-needed capital and technology into the long-closed Iranian market.

"The incoming Majlis should use its monitoring mandate to help the government create an economic boom and bring peace to the society," Aref added.