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The Decline of Iran’s Hard-Liners

The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has revealed Iran's Principlist camp as a house of cards.
Election officials count votes during the Iranian presidential elections in Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran June 15, 2013. Moderate cleric Hassan Rohani took a solid lead over conservative rivals on Saturday in preliminary vote counting in Iran's presidential election in what could be the makings of a surprise victory over favoured hardliners. REUTERS/Fars News/Seyed Ruhollah Kalantari  (IRAN - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) 

Iran’s hard-liners, known domestically as Principlists, are off balance for the first time in nine years following their devastating landslide defeat to political centrist Hassan Rouhani. The president-elect won with 51% of the votes, millions of which came from Reformists, who were mobilized en masse to elect who they saw as their best hope for change. Principlists Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, and Saeed Jalili, Iran’s arch-conservative nuclear negotiator, accrued 17% and 11% of the vote, respectively.

The 2013 election will likely be the death knell for the Principlist coalition, created in 2002 to wrest control of the country away from the then-dominant Reformist bloc that had consolidated power under former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Following the Principlists' foray into mainstream politics in the 2004 parliamentary elections, they swept to power on the landslide runoff victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Over the course of Ahmadinejad’s eight years in office — with the help of rulings on pesky Reformists from the conservative Guardian Council — the camp successfully purged Reformists from the body politic of Iran.

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