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Iran appoints 89-year-old hardliner to lead key political body

Ahmed Jannati's election keeps Assembly of Experts in conservative hands despite victories for reformists in parliamentary polls in February
No moderates or reformists stood for the post now held by Ahmad Jannati

A 89-year-old hardliner has been appointed to head Iran's Assembly of Experts, a key political body which "oversees" the work of the country's supreme leader and will elect his successor.

Iranian state television on Tuesday reported that Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati would lead the assembly. 

Jannati is one of the few hardliners who secured re-election in a February vote that saw a landslide for reformist and moderates in the capital, Tehran, and big gains elsewhere.

He was voted chairman of the 88-member Assembly with 51 votes. No moderates or reformists stood for the post.

Former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had chaired the assembly until 2011 and who topped the polls in Tehran three months ago, did not put his name forward, with media reports suggesting he could muster no more than 20 of the assembly's votes.

Two other conservatives, Tehran prayer leader Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, a moderate with reformist support, and former judiciary chief Mahmoud Hashemi Sharhoudi, won 21 and 13 votes respectively. 

Despite the advances for reformists in February's election, the assembly remains controlled by conservatives.

In Tehran, Rafsanjani won and moderate President Hassan Rouhani came third, but in the provinces conservatives kept their seats.

Prominent hardliners lost their seats, however, including outgoing chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi and Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, a close adviser to ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 76 and should he die during its eight-year term, the assembly will have the task of electing his successor.

The supreme leader has the final say on all matters of state in Iran, and has far more power than the president.

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