Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has become the speaker of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a body in charge of electing the country's supreme leader. The 89-year-old cleric is a strong critic of moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
The powerful oversight body voted in Jannati as its speaker on Tuesday, providing the ultraconservative with a two-year mandate.
Jannati won 51 out of 88 votes, beating moderate Ebrahim Amini and conservative Mahmoud Hashemi Sharoudi.
His victory signals that Iran's hardliners remain a powerful force in the country, still in control of the assembly despitelosing seats
to president Rouhani and his allies in February and April.
Ahead of the Tuesday vote, country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, urged the chamber to protect "the Islamic and revolutionary identity of the ruling system."
Guarding the election
The Assembly of Experts consists mostly of elderly clerics, who are responsible for overseeing the work of the supreme leader. Also, the body is expected to select the next top cleric after death of Khamenei, who is 77 years old. Under the Islamic constitution, the nation's top religious leader has more power than the democratically elected president.
In his message to the assembly, Khamenei also urged the new members to pay attention to "personal and political piety of the (next) supreme leader."
Even among Iranian clerics, the 89-year-old Jannati stands out for his anti-Western attitudes and criticism of President Rouhani's policies. He has spoke out against rapprochement and described the US forces in Iraq as "bloodthirsty wolves."
President Rouhani is also a member of the assembly.
Jannati also chairs the unelectedGuardian Council,
which is responsible for vetting candidates ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as hopeful Assembly delegates. Under his leadership, the Council prevented thousands of moderate and reformist candidates from taking part in the February race.
dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)