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Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Iran's hardline parliament bows out
Iran's parliament
A final team photo before the reformists take over
By Jim Muir in Tehran

The out-going Iranian parliament, dominated by conservatives, has held its last meeting in the capital Tehran.

It's making way for the first session, on Saturday, of the next chamber, in which reformist supporters of the moderate President, Mohammad Khatami, won a majority in February's general elections.

There has been such a strong right-wing backlash since the elections that many Iranians, and especially the reformists, had begun to wonder whether the conservatives would give up parliament after all.

The outgoing speaker adjusts his turban
The outgoing speaker adjusts his turban

It has been a tense and difficult three months, but the constitutional process has remained on the rails, despite a lot of buffeting.

The swing from right-wing to reformist means there will be many new faces in the new parliament.

New generation

Only around 20% of the incumbent deputies managed to retain their seats.

There will be fewer clerics, but fewer women too, and the average age of the new deputies will be at least 15 years younger than that of the outgoing chamber.

Iranian hardliner
Hardliners tried to undermine the reformists' victory

This reflects the pressure for change emanating from the huge new generation of young people now growing up in Iran.

Since the election, there has been much speculation about who will occupy the important position of speaker in the new parliament.

The reformist movement has yet to settle on a single nominee.

They are divided between supporting a former Speaker, Mehdi Karroubi, and a former minister, Behzad Nabavi.

Although many of the reformists are fiercely hostile to the former President, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has been speaker twice before, some observers are still not ruling out his chances of taking the post once again.

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See also:

08 May 00 | Middle East
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How far will Iran's conservatives go?
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Analysis: Obstacles to change
24 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's unique election
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West watches Iran
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Iran elections: Special report
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