Mourners carry the coffin of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during his burial at the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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The death of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani deprives Iran's reformers of a powerful ally, boosting anti-Western hard-liners before a presidential election which will determine how open Tehran is to the world. The loss of Rafsanjani's skills as a factional power broker also means rivalries in Iran's unwieldy dual system of religious and republican rule could grow unchecked, testing the stability of the system.His death Sunday heightens concerns for reformers at a time when morale is rising among hard-liners because of Donald Trump's election as U.S. president. Following Khomeini's death, he played a role in the selection of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as supreme leader, Iran's most powerful figure.Rouhani's election win in 2013 and his success in ending the more than decadelong nuclear dispute with the West have weakened the hard-liners.If the hard-liners regain the presidency, they would be expected to tighten restrictions on social and political freedoms. Vocal on both domestic and foreign policy initiatives, Rafsanjani called for open policies at home and abroad and supported the moderate opposition that disputed the result of 2009 presidential election which Khamenei had validated.Rafsanjani, with a political career spanning over half a century, held most of the top positions in Iran's political structure including parliamentary speaker, armed forces commander and president from 1989 to 1997 .Most analysts say Rafsanjani's death is a political blow to the pragmatist-moderate coalition, as he was the leading force behind Rouhani's election win.
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