The new Iranian parliament has confirmed Ali Larijani in his post as chairman. The move marks another victory for conservative rivals of President Ahmadinejad, who is facing his last year in office.
It was a clear victory for Ali Larijani, a conservative critic of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in his post as temporary speaker for the country's parliament by a vote of 173 to 275. The job is provisional as the Iranian constitution requires that two-thirds of the delegates of the newly elected parliament get the official confirmation of their election first.
But traditionally, whoever wins the provisional election to the post of parliamentary chairman usually keeps the post for the entire legislative period. Not only that, but Larijani's opponent Gholam Ali Hadad Adel has announced that he will no longer stand against him.
Conservative power struggle
It's a bitter defeat for Haddad Adel, a close adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, though Larijani also has close relations with religious leader.
Former parliamentarian Rajabali Mazrouei said he believes the fact that two conservatives vied for control of the parliament indicated a power struggle within the conservative camp.
"For the reformers, there's no real difference between the two candidates," said Mazrouei, a reformer who left Iran after the controversial presidential election of 2009.
"Larijani's victory clearly shows that more and more conservative politicians want to distance themselves from Ahmadinejad," he added. "They want to have as little to do with this government as possible."
Two months ago, the president personally had to face questions from the parliament - a first in Iranian history. The delegates accused Ahmadinejad of making serious mistakes, particularly in economic policy.
Larijani leads an alliance of conservatives that swept parliamentary elections in March, and whose members are becoming more vocal in their criticism of the president. Larijani has been engaged in a tense power struggle with him for years - he stood against the then virtually unknown Ahmadinejad in the presidential election of 2005, only to be soundly beaten.
But following the defeat in March's parliamentary election, the president will struggle to push through his domestic and economic programs - particularly the reduction of gasoline subsidies - in the final year of his second tenure. Constitutional restrictions also bar Ahmadinejad from standing in next year's election.
Loyal son of the revolution
Larijani, on the other hand, the son of a grand ayatollah from an influential family, is one of the current favorites in next year's election. The 53-year-old is considered a loyal son of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, and has held a number of important positions, including director of state TV broadcasting, culture minister, head of the Supreme National Security Council, chief negotiator on the nuclear question, and now parliamentary chairman.
Larijani is now pushing for the abolition of the presidential system in favor of a parliamentary government. When the ayatollah supported the introduction of a parliamentary system in a speech in October 2011, he received strong backing from Larijani.
The re-elected parliamentary chairman said he believes the president should not be elected directly by the people but by the country's elite. Whether those in power will consider such a major constitutional change depends on Iran's international situation, according to Mazrouei.
"If they decide that an election is necessary to demonstrate their legitimacy to the world, they will stay with the current system," he said. "In that case, I don't think he will stand for election again, following his experience in 2005."
Author: Shabnam Nourian / bk
Editor: Sean Sinico