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Who were the real winners in Iranian election?

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
BBC Persian

image captionOne round down in Iran's fiercely contested election has left the government and opposition arguing bitterly about turn-out figures

The official results of Iran parliamentary election have been announced, but who were the real winners of this election and who lost this battle?

A total of 225 Iran MPs were elected in the first round of voting, with 65 seats to be filled in the second round which is expected to take place in late April.

For both the Iranian leadership and the opposition, the most important thing about this election was not the candidates, or the slogans. It was all about turnout.

The opposition called on its supporters to stay at home on election day while the government used every means possible to encourage people to turn out to vote.

Election day tension

"Taking part in this election is more important than voting for the right candidate," the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei told people in a pre-election address.

image captionState TV said that polling stations stayed open late into the night to accommodate demand

Billboards were even installed on Tehran's main highways warning people in large letters that if the turnout was less than 50%, the US would attack Iran.

The opposition countered by saying it was boycotting the elections in protest at the continued house arrest of its leaders and what it called Iran's "unfair electoral system".

On election day, the tension between the two camps reached its peak.

Opposition supporters uploaded pictures of empty polling stations on their websites, while state TV showed long queues and reported that polling stations had stayed open late into the night to accommodate everyone who wanted to cast their vote.

Lighting up the blogosphere

The following day, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was in jubilant mood as he announced that the turnout figures had hit 64%.

It was he said an "iron fist and a hard slap in the face for the arrogant powers that will keep them confused and perplexed for a long time".

The opposition rejected the turnout figures as fiction, made up to defy international pressures over its nuclear programme.

Much more disappointing for the opposition was the decision of the country's widely respected reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami, to vote.

Angry opposition supporters took to the blogosphere to brand Mr Khatami a "traitor".

He responded by saying he had voted for the sake of national interest and in the hope of promoting reform within Iran.

But people close to Mr Khatami told the BBC that the real reason he went to vote was because he was afraid that if he did not, he would be put under house arrest, thus ending any last hope of reforming the system from within.

So in terms of overall numbers it was a good result for the Supreme Leader. And Mr Khatami's decision to vote caused much disappointment and division within the opposition.

Leader vs President

With the votes counted the next question was who exactly had won the majority of seats in parliament - was it President Ahmadinejad or his opponents?

image captionAyatollah Khamenei's supporters have emerged the victors of the election

In this respect President Ahmadinejad is clearly the loser.

He failed to gain the majority of parliament as he had hoped. Many of his allies were disqualified by the Guardian Council before the race began, and many of those who were allowed to run for election failed to win a seat.

Even the president's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, could not secure enough votes to enter the parliament. She says she's planning to file a complaint against the irregularities she says led to her defeat.

However, the election result is not all bad news for Mr Ahmadinejad. At least 100 current MPs who were staunch critics of the president also failed to win seats this time.

They want to bring the president for public questioning over economic mismanagement. These MPs are also expected to grill Mr Ahmadinejad over his feud with Ayatollah Khamenei.

An unprecedented break between the president and the Supreme Leader occurred in April when Mr Ahmadinejad boycotted government meetings for eleven days in a personal protest over Ayatollah Khamenei's order to reinstate a minister he had sacked.

The public questioning will go ahead this month as planned but 69 of 79 MPs who proposed it will not be in next parliament to bother the president anymore.

image captionPresident Ahmadinejad failed to get the majority in parliament, as he had hoped

This parliamentary election was not just a contest between the president and the hardliners. There were actually almost a dozen different conservative groupings contesting for seats.

It is difficult to say which one now has the majority in the parliament, but it's clear that Conservatives close to the Supreme Leader have the upper hand.

President Ahmadinejad's failure to create a power bloc in the new parliament means it will be much more difficult for anyone from his camp emerging as a serious contender in the presidential election in two years time.

For the Conservatives, however, victory has put the spotlight on someone who looks set to be a significant player on the political scene in the next few years.

Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel is the candidate who won the highest number of votes in the capital, Tehran. He is also the father-in-law of Mojtaba Khamenei, the influential son of the Supreme Leader.

Many expect him to be appointed as the new speaker of the parliament and maybe run as the next president of Iran.