IRAN - IMPORTANT ELECTION RESULTS AND POSSIBLE OPPTIONS FOR FUTURE
Mr Rafsanjani, a conservative pragmatist and former president, was elected head of the experts' assembly after overcoming a determined rightwing effort to block him. He received 41 votes, while his opponent, hardliner Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who ran as the "stop Rafsanjani" candidate in an election triggered by the death in July of the assembly's previous chairman, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini, received 34.
Mr Rafsanjani's election sets him on course for a possible power struggle with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assembly can dismiss the supreme leader - although this has never happened - and choose a new one.
Mr Rafsanjani has already antagonised Mr Khamenei by advocating the replacement of his one-man role by a collective leadership. He has also recommended replacing the post's open-ended tenure with term limits.
Under Mr Meshkini's chairmanship, the 86-member assembly never exercised its constitutional powers to challenge Mr Khamenei, Iran's most powerful political and religious figure who has the final say in all state matters.
However, Mr Rafsanjani signalled yesterday that this would change by asserting the body's right to "interfere" in top-level decisions.
"If the assembly of experts wants to take responsibility for important practical duties and to interfere in the current issues of the country at the highest level and to be more active in various areas, there is no obstacle from a legal and Islamic viewpoint," he told assembly members before they voted. "The assembly of experts is among the most important elements of Islamic Iran."
Issa Saharkhiz, an analyst, predicted Mr Rafsanjani would try to use his new position to rein in Mr Khamenei. "Under Mr Meshkini, the assembly simply followed the supreme leader's orders and forgot about supervising his behaviour," he said. "But in the short term, Mr Rafsanjani will seek to establish the kind of supervision that was previously lacking. In the medium to long term, he will try to introduce his programme to change the situation for the leadership in Iran. That means limited terms for a supreme leadership under one person or changing from a one-man to a collective leadership."
Mr Rafsanjani's victory crowned his success last
December in topping the poll in popular elections to the
assembly, an achievement widely seen as a political
comeback after his 2005 presidential election defeat to
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president.