TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s principlists are on the brink of a landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary elections as forecasts show them taking more than two-thirds of the seats.
The reformists, the largest grouping in the outgoing parliament, have been decisively beaten, with predictions showing them taking only 17 seats in the 290-strong parliament. The principalists were on course to take around 200 seats, including all 30 seats in the capital, Tehran, previously a stronghold of the reformists.
The result is a rebuff for those that had pushed for greater engagement with the West, which brought about more pressures and sanctions on Iran. The parliament could press for Iran to quit the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in response to the coercive measures.
Presidential elections are due next year, leaving President Hassan Rouhani to navigate a difficult year engaging with a strong parliament.
The initial results showed that as many as 14 senior figures in former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration had been elected, as well as his former central bank governor.
The former mayor of Tehran, Muhammad Bagher Qalibaf, an Iran-Iraq war veteran and former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, was also victorious in Tehran, putting him in a strong position to take over the parliament’s speakership.
That post had previously been held by Ali Larijani who stood down preparing for a likely run at the presidency.
Ghalibaf has said only 30% of the country’s economic travails are caused by sanctions, saying mismanagement of the economy is the chief culprit. Principalists say the reformers have tried to interfere in the economy excessively, and want Iran to look to its neighbors to boost trade, rather than Europe.
The Iranian foreign ministry believes Donald Trump has been gripped by a fantasy that the maximum economic pressure is going to lead to the Islamic Republic’s fall. The election results arguably show the establishment’s power has been enhanced, the Guardian wrote on Saturday.
According to the British paper, the foreign ministry is said to be 80% certain that Trump will be re-elected.
"Many Iranian voters said they would be willing to withstand another six years of sanctions for the sake of their country’s independence,” it added.
President Donald Trump raised the stakes in his standoff with Tehran when Iran’s top anti-terror commander, General Qassem Soleimani, was martyred in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.
The assassination greatly influenced discussions in the parliamentary elections.
"I am here to vote. It is my duty to follow martyr Soleimani’s path,” said a young voter Friday speaking to Reuters at a cemetery where General Soleimani is buried in his hometown city of Kerman.
More than 7,000 candidates competed for 290 seats during Friday’s elections.
A total of 57,918,000 people were eligible to cast their ballots. A winning candidate must have at least 20 percent of the votes cast in their constituency in order to become a lawmaker for a four-year term.
A second round of parliamentary elections may be held for undecided seats in which candidates have failed to reach the required percentage.