The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of Iran faced electoral embarrassment today after the apparent failure of his supporters to win control of key local councils and block the political comeback of his most powerful opponent.
Early results from last Friday's election suggested that his Sweet Scent of Service coalition had won just three out of 15 seats on the symbolically important Tehran city council, foiling Mr Ahmadinejad's plan to oust the mayor and replace him with an ally.
The outcome appeared to be mirrored elsewhere, with councils throughout Iran returning a majority of reformists and moderate fundamentalists opposed to Mr Ahmadinejad.
Compounding his setback was the success of Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential pragmatist and fierce critic of the president's radical policies. Mr Rafsanjani - whom Mr Ahmadinejad defeated in last year's presidential election - received the most votes in elections to the experts' assembly, a clerical body empowered to appoint and remove Iran's supreme leader. By contrast, Ayatollah Mohammed-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, Mr Ahmadinejad's presumed spiritual mentor, came sixth.
Good, it's about time the sensibles started winning, although I'm not entirely sure this election was about reform as much as it was about their terrible economy. It is important to note that the Supreme Leader of Iran urged his followers to vote for Rafsanjani as a way to consolidate his power. Yazdi and Ahmadinejad had been trying to take over the Council of Experts, presumably to grab the real power in Iran, that of the Supreme Leader.
Found via Kevin Drum who added this snarky line, "I guess last week's Holocaust denial conference, an obvious attempt to rally his base, didn't work. I hear that strategy has been having lots of trouble lately."