Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces. Results may not be finalised until Tuesday but if they tally with the initial figures there will be a palpable change in the Iranian political landscape with moderates dominating the scene and hardliners being pushed back to the fringes.
In the months leading to the Iranian 2016 elections, authorities have cracked down heavily on Iran’s fragile civil society. On Sunday February 21 Branch 54 of Tehran’s Appeals Court reportedly confirmed prison sentences for four civil rights activists: Arash Sadeghi, 15 years in prison; Golrokh Irayee, six years in prison; Navid Kamran, one year in prison; and Behnam Mousivand, one year in prison.
They clapped and cheered, and many shouted for the release of their political leaders under house arrest for the past five years. Some held up pictures of a popular former president, Mohammad Khatami. Pictures of his hands, to be exact, because displaying his portrait is illegal. A decade of relentless pressure from the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards and clerical councils dominated by hard-liners has confined Iran s reformists. The reformists were a force during the presidential contest of 2009, but the movement was decapitated after its political leaders voiced support for the millions of people who took to the streets to challenge the fairness of the vote.