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Iran: The End of the Khatami Era
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Political Dynamics > The End of the Khatami Era


The first round of the parliamentary elections occurred on February 20, 2004, with more than 5,600 candidates competing for 290 seats. Karrubi, one of the few nationally known reformists who had not been disqualified, organized a nationwide list of 220 reform candidates, the Coalition for All Iran, but no one on the list won a seat. In all, only 39 reform candidates won in the first round and nine more in the second round, giving the reform bloc 17 percent of the total seats. The conservative Islamic Iran Builders Council was the big winner, picking up 154 seats in the first round and adding 43 in the second round to obtain a 68 percent majority in the parliament. The remaining 15 percent of seats were distributed among independents, a majority of whom were more conservative in their political views than the Islamic Iran Builders Council. Overall voter turnout was 51 percent, with higher participation rates in small towns and villages than in large cities.

The 2004 elections marked the end of Khatami’s efforts to promote political reform and the beginning of a new era of conservative domination, inaugurated when the new parliament convened in late May and elected as its speaker the head of the Islamic Iran Builders Council, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, who had led a small conservative bloc in the 2000–4 parliament. Adel’s declared intention was to concentrate on improving the economy, and under his tutelage the parliament enacted several economic programs that restricted or reversed the neoliberal economic reforms enacted by the previous parliament. But conservatives both in the parliament and the judiciary also continued to focus on their reformist opponents. The judiciary began another crackdown on Internet sites and banned several more newspapers. A number of prominent reformist politicians and student leaders were arrested. The parliament approved three conservative nominees for the Guardians Council, including one who had been rejected twice by the previous parliament. In August Khamenei reappointed judiciary head Shahrudi and three members of the Guardians Council, signaling his approval of their records. The parliament challenged the authority of two cabinet ministers and approved a no-confidence measure against another. It also placed heavy restrictions on foreign investment, revised the five-year development plan passed by the previous parliament, and began efforts to put the Ministry of Information and Security under control of the judiciary.

In the run-up to the June 2005 presidential election, two main reformist candidates emerged: Mostafa Moin, a former cabinet minister, and Mehdi Karrubi. Many centrists backed former president Rafsanjani. Several conservative candidates emerged, including Ali Larijani, who resigned as head of Iran’s state radio and television service; Mohammad Qalibaf, chief of the national police; and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran–Iraq War, was elected to the Tehran city council in 2003, and later was chosen the capital’s mayor.

Of the six candidates, Rafsanjani won a plurality in the June 17 balloting, but he got only 21 percent of the total. Ahmadinejad, who had conducted a populist campaign, narrowly gained second place by outpolling Karrubi, 19 percent to 17 percent. Because no candidate obtained a majority, a second round of balloting was held between the two highest vote-getters. In the June 24 second-round vote, most reformists unenthusiastically backed Rafsanjani because they feared that Ahmadinejad might win. Ahmadinejad stepped up his populist message, downplaying his conservative political views, promising to help the poor and to fight corruption, and repeating the theme that it was time for a new generation with fresh ideas to come to power. Iranian voters responded to these themes by strongly backing Ahmadinejad, who won 62 percent of the second-round vote. Ahmadinejad’s victory was not only a decisive defeat for Rafsanjani but also for the “establishment” of conservative and reformist politicians who had been contesting power among themselves since 1979. Ahmadinejad was inaugurated in August 2005 and formed a cabinet consisting mostly of men with reputations as pragmatic technocrats.

Last Updated: January 2008

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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