Rouhani allies face tough challenge

ANKARA – Iranians will shape the future of the Islamic republic for at least a decade when hardline and moderate candidates battle next week in elections for Parliament and the body which will choose the country’s next supreme leader.

Allies of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, buoyed by Iran’s nuclear deal, hope to gain influence, but moves by hardliners to block moderate candidates and disillusion over Mr Rouhani’s stalled reforms leave them with an uphill task.

Last year’s nuclear accord led to the lifting of crippling international sanctions, offering the hope of economic upturn and better living standards for many Iranians.

But the potential opening up to the world — and Mr Rouhani’s increasing popularity — have alarmed hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and have intensified the political infighting within Iran’s complex power structures. The hardline Guardian Council, which vets candidates and laws, blocked thousands of mostly moderate hopefuls from standing in the Feb. 26 parliamentary election.

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