Leaders of Iran

Thursday, December 02, 2004

1997 Khatami beats Nateq-Nouri in a landslide

Moderate triumphs in Iranian elections: "Moderate triumphs in Iranian elections
By Christopher Lockwood in Teheran

THE victory yesterday of Sayeed Mohammed Khatami, the moderate candidate, in Iran's presidential election has sent the most powerful tremors through the country's fundamentalist Islamic regime since 1979, when it came to power.

Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, had been the favoured choice of the hard-line religious figures who dominate Iran. Until a few weeks ago, he had been expected to win without difficulty. But Mr Khatami, a former culture minister forced to resign for being too liberal a censor, won the support of moderates and reformers.

By late yesterday, with only two-thirds of votes counted, it was clear that Mr Khatami had won by a landslide. He was leading Mr Nateq-Nouri by about 13 million votes to five million, with another six to seven million votes still uncounted. Mr Nateq-Nouri, in what amounts to a complete humiliation for Iran's conservative traditionalist clerics, conceded defeat in the early afternoon, telephoning his congratulations to Mr Khatami and acknowledging that a run-off second round, required if no candidate gained more than half the votes, would not be needed.

But there are doubts about what difference Mr Khatami will be able to make. The presidency in Iran is less powerful than the post of religious leader, occupied first by Ayatollah Khomeini and now by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Analysts noted that the previous president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was barred by the constitution from running for a third term, was also regarded as a reformer, but was severely constrained by the hard-liners."

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