Iranian former vice-president Mohammad Reza Aref speaks during a reformist campaign for upcoming parliamentary election, in Tehran in this February 18, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA
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A senior reformist candidate forecast victory for allies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over hard-line foes in parliamentary elections Friday, saying this would help the pragmatic leader revive an economy hit by years of sanctions.Supporters of Rouhani, buoyed by Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, aim to gain influence in the elections for the parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Experts, the body that will choose the country's next supreme leader.Aref, a Stanford-educated former presidential candidate and minister, who served as vice president to the former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, leads the reformist list in the crucial contest in Tehran, where more than 1,000 candidates are competing for just 30 seats in parliament.Rouhani allies have come under increasing pressure in the election campaign from hard-liners who accuse them of links to Western powers including the United States and Britain. Aref dismissed such rhetoric as "natural during elections". The stakes are high for all factions Friday, since the outcome may determine whether Rouhani has a mandate to push ahead with long-promised political, social and economic reforms, as well as influencing his chances of re-election in 2017 . Several Iranian opposition figures have said they will participate in the elections, ending a de facto boycott of formal political activity in the Islamic Republic and possibly providing a morale boost to Rouhani's camp.
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