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Iranian clerics pick hard-liner as new head of clerical body

March 10, 2015

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s most influential clerical body charged with choosing or dismissing the nation’s supreme leader has elected a hard-line ayatollah as its new chairman, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

IRNA said Mohammad Yazdi, the deputy chairman of the 86-member Assembly of Experts, got 47 votes in his favor from among 73 clerics who attended the session. The only other contender was Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who got 24 votes.

Yazdi, 83, will chair the Assembly for one year, until next February, when new balloting for all Assembly members is to take place. That vote will coincide with Iran’s parliamentary elections.

Yazdi’s election follows the death last October of the former chairman, Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani.

The assembly monitors Iran’s supreme leader and picks a successor after his death, which makes it potentially one of the most powerful institutions in Iran, although it does not involve itself the daily affairs of state.

It has only once picked a supreme leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution — in 1989, when it chose Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed his late mentor, the Islamic Revolution patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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