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Iranian Voters Back Moderates In Parliamentary Elections

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In any country, election results usually suggest how people feel about big social and economic issues. Friday's parliamentary elections in Iran show an appetite for more changes like the ones proposed by President Hassan Rouhani. In other words, moderates are gaining on hard-liners. NPR's Peter Kenyon was in Tehran for the vote and has this report.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: A trend is emerging in Iranian elections. In 2013, voters picked the most moderate option, President Hassan Rouhani. Now voters are giving him a more cooperative parliament to work with. Some of Iran's most prominent hard-line lawmakers lost their seats, including many who tried to derail the nuclear agreement Rouhani's government negotiated with world powers last year. Reformers didn't gain a majority. There was little chance of that after thousands of candidates were disqualified before campaigning began. But even so, by replacing hard-line lawmakers with moderates and conservatives who agree with at least some of Rouhani's agenda, voters managed to make their voices heard.

The totals will change again. Nearly 60 of the 290 parliamentary seats will need a runoff election to decide the winner. While many Iranians marveled at the scope of the defeats suffered by the hard-liners, political analyst Foad Izadi at Tehran University says the results shouldn't shock anyone.

FOAD IZADI: It is not a surprise because generally, people who supported Dr. Rouhani two years ago are not unhappy with him because he has more or less done what he was supposed to do. He said he would get some of the sanctions lifted, and he has done that. He said he would improve relations with the outside world, and he has done that.

KENYON: Izadi says most Iranians, even many conservatives, agree with Rouhani in engaging more with the rest of the world. It's mainly the very hard-line conservatives that continue to insist that Iran need only rely on itself. That's a theme backed up by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Voters also elected President Rouhani and some of his supporters to the mainly conservative assembly of experts which is charged with selecting the supreme leader. The promise the president has not fulfilled is to bring better economic times to Iran. The clock is now ticking on Rouhani's own reelection bid. If he chooses to run again, he has just over a year to make sure that ordinary Iranians are feeling the economic benefits of the sanctions relief brought by the nuclear deal. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Tehran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.