Iranian President Stumbles at Polls

...There were also elections last Friday for the 86-member Assembly of Experts, an all-mullah body that appoints, for a life term, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. (The current Supreme Leader is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.) In those elections, Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, fanatical fundamentalist Ayatollah Mohammed-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, came in sixth. Mesbah-Yazdi, who appears frequently in public with Ahmadinejad, is the de facto head of the Hojatieh—a secretive society, founded in the 1950s to purge Iran of the minority Baha'i faith—which has since become a redoubt of the most hard-line homophobic fundamentalists.

According to Agence France-Presse, Mesbah-Yazdi has aggressively argued for increased use of public floggings and executions for homosexuality as "immoral behavior," saying both forms of punishment are a "fundamental principle" of Islam.

"If the Westerners do not like it, that is their problem," he was quoted as saying, "but the death penalty and the use of flogging are fundamental principles of our religion."

{josquote}First place in the elections for the Assembly of Experts went to former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani...{/josquote}

There have been reports that Ahmadinejad's mentor wanted to use last Friday's elections as a springboard to eventually replace Ayatollah Khameini as Supreme Leader, but Mesbah-Yazdi's poor showing suggests that was a still-born wish. First place in the elections for the Assembly of Experts went to former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, beaten by Ahmadinejad in last year's presidential race; he was re-elected to the Assembly with 1.56 million votes, well ahead of the 880,000 votes garnered by Mesbah-Yazdi. However, when Rafsanjani was president he was shunned by Iranian reformers, who considered him a part of the conservative establishment....

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