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Friday, March 4, 2016

Iran's newly-elected parliament to focus on economic rehabilitation, growth (JMD quoted on Azernews)

By Aynur Karimova
About three years after Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was elected, the Islamic Republic held elections for the 10th convocation of the Parliament and the fifth convocation of the Assembly of Experts on February 26.
Millions of Iranian voters cast their votes for the 290-seat parliament and the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, a panel with the constitutional duty to select the nation’s supreme leader.
Final results revealed that the Islamic Republic's moderate camp - reformist-backed candidates have secured all 30 seats of parliament for theTehran constituency.
All elected lawmakers are from the List of Hope, a pro-President Rouhani coalition of moderates and reformists, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli told reporters in a televised press conference in Tehran on February 29.
In this parliamentary election, which is the first since Iran signed a nuclear deal with world powers, President Rouhani and the moderates not only swept all seats in Tehran, but also appeared to run strongly in other regions of the Islamic Republic. The moderates also did well in elections for the Assembly of Experts.
Experts believe that this landslide victory is a stunning blow to Iran's hardliners.
Ali Fathollah-Nejad, an expert of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), believes that the preliminary results show that many Iranians have rejected hardliner elements and have instead chosen more moderate forces.
"Hence, this can be seen as support for the Rouhani administration's agenda of 'moderation' at home and abroad," he told Azernews.
The elected parliamentarians will serve from May 3, 2016 for a four-year term, while the Assembly of Experts - for another eight-year term.
Rouhani believes that the election has given the government more credibility and clout.
"The competition is over. It's time to open a new chapter in Iran's economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
James Dorsey, a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, believes that Iran's newly-elected parliament will focus on economic rehabilitation and growth.
"Assuming that supporters of President Rouhani will have a significant say in the parliament, the focus is likely to be on economic rehabilitation and growth in the wake of the lifting of sanctions and returning Iran to what it believes is its rightful place in the international community," he told Azernews.
Now, one can say with no doubt that the newly-elected parliament will change its policy towards the wider world as President Rouhani's hands have been strengthened in the parliament to open his country to greater trade and investment and to deepen the dialogue with the West.
But, as experts state, much of this opening will continue to be with Europe, rather than the U.S. as Tehran’s relations with Washington is still complex and controversial.
"There will definitely be greater economic cooperation. Europe rather than the U.S. is likely to be Iran’s access point to the West," Dorsey said.
Iran's ambitions in the region are also deeply rooted as Tehran has strategic interests in such countries as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Afghanistan.
However, there are doubts on warming of relations with Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi Arabia is not interested in a dialogue [with Iran] and doing its best to isolate Iran and punish those like Lebanon who don’t tow the Saudi line. Relations with Turkey and Central Asia will likely be easier but remain nonetheless complex," Dorsey noted.

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