Hardliner wins key post to influence choice of Iran’s next leader

Reuters reports: A prominent hardliner was elected on Tuesday to head the influential body that will pick Iran’s next Supreme Leader.

The surprise choice of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as head of the Assembly of Experts took place at a highly sensitive time, as Iran and six world powers face a March 31 deadline to reach the outline of an agreement over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 75, underwent prostate surgery last year and rumors have recently resurfaced about his health, although he was shown on television last Sunday meeting a group of environmental activists.

In the internal election, Yazdi, a hardline cleric who headed the judiciary through much of the 1990s, defeated former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by 47 votes to 24, according to Fars news agency.

“This was unexpected,” said Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Iranian journalist and political analyst based in Tehran. “I was genuinely surprised that Yazdi won.”

The result suggested that hardliners within the Assembly had closed ranks at a sensitive time when a new Supreme Leader could soon be chosen – a decision in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful military force in the country, could also play a role. [Continue reading…]

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