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Iran Lawmakers Re-elect Their Conservative Speaker, Ali Larijani

May 31, 2016

TEHRAN — A leading conservative was re-elected speaker of Iran’s Parliament on Tuesday, denying reformists a post they thought they had earned with a big win in February elections.

In a mild surprise, an overwhelming majority of Iran’s lawmakers chose a conservative candidate, Ali Larijani, who has held the position since 2008. Mr. Larijani, 57, scion of a powerful Iranian family, is not considered a die-hard conservative, as he managed the Parliament’s approval last summer of the nuclear agreement with Western powers.

Moreover, Mr. Larijani has supported in recent years the government of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who was elected on promises of reaching a nuclear deal and loosening Iran’s severe restrictions on personal freedoms.

Of 276 lawmakers present in the 290-seat house, Mr. Larijani won 237 votes, Iranian state television reported.

Mr. Larijani’s election was something of a formality. His main reformist opponent, Mohammad Reza Aref — who served as first vice president from 2001 to 2005 under Mohammad Khatami, then the liberal reformist president — withdrew from the race on Monday.

The moderate wing did score a few victories, however. Ali Motahhari, a moderate conservative and a vocal critic of Iran’s leadership who has called for the release of political prisoners, was elected deputy head of Parliament, IRNA, the state news agency, reported. A reformist, Massoud Pezeshkian, was also elected deputy head of the body.

Since the signing of the nuclear deal, leading figures in Iran’s dominant hard-line faction, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have taken pains to highlight how little they see the agreement as the watershed moment in Iran’s history that Mr. Rouhani had promised it would be. Last week, a hard-line conservative was elected chairman of the council that will choose the next supreme leader of the country.

The Assembly of Experts picked the new chairman, the 89-year-old cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, even though he had barely scraped together enough votes in February to claim a seat representing a Tehran constituency in Parliament.

Correction: May 31, 2016

An earlier version of this article misstated the day Mohammad Reza Aref withdrew his candidacy as speaker of the Iranian Parliament. It was Monday, not Sunday.

Follow Thomas Erdbrink on Twitter @ThomasErdbrink.