Who will be Next Chair of Iran’s Assembly of Experts?

By Rohollah Faghihi, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Iranian voters shocked Principlists on Feb. 26 in elections for the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body tasked with choosing the supreme leader and supervising him. The list of the moderate Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a big blow to ultraconservatives as two prominent Principlists, Ayatollahs Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammad Yazdi, lost their seats in the assembly.

Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the Expediency Council and had previously served as president for two terms. By contrast, Mesbah Yazdi had never held a governmental position but was considered the spiritual leader of the hard-line Endurance Front faction. Yazdi had been chairman of the Assembly of Experts at the time of the February elections and had formerly headed the judiciary.

The Tehran voting district has 16 seats in the 88-seat assembly, and Rafsanjani’s ticket won 15 of them. The ultraconservative Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati struggled to keep his spot in the assembly, but managed in the end to grab the 16th seat. Now, conservatives and moderates alike have their sights set on the assembly’s election of a chairman on May 24.

Many assume that Rafsanjani, who headed the Assembly of Experts in the past, will be a candidate, but according to a well-placed Iranian source who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, the ayatollah will not be trying his luck unless “he senses that danger is approaching.”

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