Women walk past electoral posters for the upcoming elections in central Tehran.
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Friday's vote for Iran's parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body that will pick the next supreme leader, have assumed an importance well beyond the perennial battles between hard-liners entrenched in power and reformists seeking to unseat them.Out of the estimated 801 Islamic preachers who put themselves forward for the 88-member Assembly of Experts, only 166 were approved as candidates. Women were not allowed to stand for the assembly, which will eventually choose a successor to Khamenei.The reformists' top candidate is former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, although he is now 81 .Nearly always at the center of Iran's intricate webs of power, he is famous for his pragmatism and political acumen.In backing such a centrist arch-fixer, the reformists hope that in alliance with moderate conservatives they will be able to block the three main ultra-conservative leaders – Ahmad Jannati, Mohammad Yazdi and Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi – from emerging as Khamenei's successor.Rouhani is No. 2 on the reformist candidate list for the Assembly of Experts, just after Rafsanjani.Under Iran's constitution, a transitional "Leadership Council" is permitted until a supreme leader is selected by the assembly.
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