Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei Leads In Iran Parliamentary Election, As Iran Announces Huge Oil Field Discovery

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The results from Iran's parliamentary election, whose outcome will have virtually no impact on the country's foreign, nuclear or Iran policy, and thus change the country's course vis-a-vis Israel and the US, are in, and following a supposedly high turnout as big as 64% which critics have blasted as a sham (unlike American low turnouts which are 'pristine', yet where both "opponents" end up paid representatives of the banker class) has seen support for president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's party slide, at the expense of a surge in popularity for the ultra conservative Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reuters summarizes the results as follows: "Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar put the turnout at 64 percent after more than 26 million votes had been counted, telling state television the Iranian nation had disappointed its enemies by voting in such numbers. The figure was close to the 65 percent predicted for weeks by hardline conservative leaders and media. Najjar said 135 seats had been won outright so far, with 10 going to a run-off. Final results were not expected on Saturday. According to a Reuters tally of the results announced in 126 seats, 81 went to Khamenei supporters, 9 to Ahmadinejad's faction, 7 to reformists and 7 to independents, with the allegiance of the remaining winners unclear." However, as noted above, "the vote will have scant impact on Iran's foreign or nuclear policies, in which Khamenei already has the final say, but could strengthen the Supreme Leader's hand before a presidential vote next year. Ahmadinejad, 56, cannot run for a third term." Instead, it is all about internal politics and is a buildup to next year's presidential election in which Ahmadinejad can not run, thus opening the door for Khamenei to take all power. Needless to say, if the "western" world thinks the current conservative president is bad, his ultra-conservative replacement will hardly make things better.

A quick recap clip from Al Jazeera summarizing the facts:

Support for the president, accused of allowing out of control inflation, is sliding compared to the previous election:

Iran's Islamic clerical leadership is eager to restore the damage to its legitimacy caused by the violent crushing of eight months of street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a 2009 vote his opponents said was rigged.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed the 2009 result, has since turned sharply against Ahmadinejad. Some early results from Friday's vote suggested the divisive president's supporters were losing ground in the 290-seat parliament.

 

His sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, failed to win a seat in their hometown of Garmsar, the semi-official Mehr news agency said. Elsewhere, Khamenei loyalists appeared to be doing well.

...

No independent observers were on hand to monitor the voting or check the official turnout figures. An unelected Guardian Council, which vets all candidates, barred 35 sitting MPs from seeking re-election and nearly 2,000 other would-be candidates.

 

The vote took place without the two main opposition leaders. Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who ran for president in 2009, have been under house arrest for more than a year.

Stratfor explains the key ideological differences between the two conservative camps:

Iran's conservatives can be roughly divided into two camps: those who believe the supreme leader has "faslol khatab," or final say in all matters, and those who do not. Ahmadinejad is leader of the latter camp, having used his two terms to establish the presidency as a position in competition with the supreme leader for executive authority.

 

Ahmadinejad initially had a good relationship with Khamenei and had his support during the contested 2009 presidential election. This began to deteriorate before the regime crushed protests by the Green Movement, with Ahmadinejad demonstrating that he would not quietly follow all Khamenei's mandates.

 

His independent streak first emerged when Khamenei ordered Ahmadinejad to dismiss his closest associate, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, from the post of first vice president shortly after Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009. Ahmadinejad then appointed Mashaei as presidential chief of staff in a clear attempt to countermand the intent of Khamenei's order. This independence has grown more pronounced since that time, with Ahmadinejad dismissing former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Dec. 13, 2010, while Mottaki was on an official trip abroad, encouraging the resignation of several Cabinet members, and forcing the resignation of intelligence chief Heidar Moslehi on April 18, 2011, against the direct wishes of the supreme leader. The supreme leader refused Moslehi's resignation and ordered him to return to work, prompting Ahmadinejad to abstain from his official duties for 10 days in protest.

 

Ahmadinejad and his supporters present a serious threat to the current clerical regime and its key stakeholders and beneficiaries. A populist conservative who draws his support from the rural poor, Ahmadinejad has said power should be vested in the elected government, while the clerics should have a guidance role. This implicitly criticizes the Islamic republic's principle of Velayat-e-Faqih, or rule by Islamic jurists, on which the clerical elite stakes its legitimacy. (Explicitly challenging the principle would not be tolerated, especially from a sitting president.) The conflict stems from the contradiction in the institutional nature of the Islamic republic, being both a parliamentary democracy and a clerical theocracy headed by the supreme leader, who is not popularly elected. Khamenei and the clerical elite, along with their allies in the judiciary and the parliament, are hoping to use the elections to slow the momentum of this emerging class of non-clerical politicians and prevent the further erosion of their authority.

Implications:

Ahmadinejad's current term will end in 2013, and he will be ineligible to run for his third and final term until 2017. (Under Iranian law, an individual may run for three presidential terms but only two may be consecutive.) Khamenei's chances of having a pro-clerical presidential candidate win and potentially hold the seat for the next eight years will be much improved with Ahmadinejad unable to run himself. This is of great importance since the 72-year-old supreme leader's health is rumored to be declining. Ahmadinejad's goal is to elect a populist presidential candidate without much of his own power base, enabling Ahmadinejad to run again in 2017 as the populists' favored candidate. Regardless of whether Ahmadinejad's candidate wins, he will spend the next four years building a political movement that can carry him to a third term, though having an ally in the presidency would help this effort, as would taking a large share of the parliamentary seats up for election on March 2.

And while yesterday's vote is still merely a stepping stone to bigger things in the future, perhaps the most surprising news come out earlier today from Retuers, which stated that Iran has "discovered one of its biggest oil fields with high quality crude in a southern province, the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted an official as saying on Saturday."

The preliminary studies show enormous crude reserves in this oil field, which can be considered as one of Iran's biggest fields," Mahmoud Mohaddes, head of the exploration office at the state National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) told Mehr.

 

Mohaddes gave no further details about the field but said it was located in the country's southern border region. Oil Ministry officials were not available to comment.

 

Iran is looking to discover 2.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 23 trillion cubic feet of gas in the course of the country's fifth five-year development programme (2010-2015) now under way.

Whether this is merely propaganda posturing, or if it is fact, and changes the balance of power dynamics of the region, is still early to say.