Hard-line ayatollah elected to lead Iran's most powerful clerics

Hard-line ayatollah elected to lead Iran's most powerful clerics
Mohammad Yazdi, an aging ultra-conservative, has been elected to head Iran's Assembly of Experts, which chooses or dismisses the nation's supreme leader.
2 min read
10 March, 2015
Yazdi was among five contenders for the position [AFP]

Iran's Assembly of Experts, the country's most influential clerical body, charged with appointing or dismissing the country's supreme leader, has elected a hard-line ayatollah as its new chairman, it has emerged in a surprise appointment on Tuesday.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi was a deputy speaker of parliament after the 1979 Islamic revolution and headed the judiciary for a decade until 1999.

The 83-year-old gained 47 of the 73 votes cast in a closed-door meeting in Tehran, according to state television.

Yazdi was among five contenders whose names had been linked to the post by Iranian media in recent weeks - but he was not the most talked about.

His election represents a heavy defeat for former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate within the Iranian political spectrum, who previously held the position between 2007 and 2011, and who received 24 votes.

Yazdi, described in Iran's official Who's Who as "rightwing", takes up a position vacant since October 2014, when Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani died following a heart attack.

Officially comprised of 86 religious figures elected by the people, the Assembly of Experts chooses the supreme leader and monitors his actions.

The clerical body grants the leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an indefinite term - but retains the power to sack him, if it sees fit.

Yazdi, initially at least, will hold the post for just one year as elections for the Assembly of Experts are scheduled alongside parliamentary polls next year, with a new vote for chairman to follow.

Although Rafsanjani put his name forward, he had appeared reluctant to resume the post, insisting his membership of Iran's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council, already kept him busy.

"Psychologically, I am not at all prepared to become the chairman of the Assembly of Experts. I work enough at the Expediency Council and why would it be necessary to work more than this?" he said in an interview published by the reformist Shargh newspaper on Tuesday.

"We'll see on the day. My criterion is that it should be someone who befits the stature of the Assembly of Experts."