On Saturday, winners for the remaining 55 seats in Iran's 290-member Parliament were announced, a day after votes in Tehran and 32 other constituencies.
For close watchers of the Iran political scene, there were individual stories. Some critics of the President were victorious --- Ahmad Tavakoli and Ali Motahari did especially well in Tehran --- but another, Parviz Sorouri, fell. Some defenders of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, notably Hamid Rasaei and Mehdi Koochakzadeh, retained their seats. A leading conservative, Asadollah Badamchian, was defeated.
And in perhaps the most telling story, though you are unlikely to see it in the international press, the decline of the reformists to no more than a token presence in the system was confirmed. Prominent MPs in the Imam Khomeini Line faction such as Mostafa Kavakebian, Dariush Ghanbari, Qadratolah Alikhani, and Mohammad Reza Khabbaz are no longer in the Majlis.
Those MPs, as well as former President Mohammd Khatami, had defied the calls of other reformists not to participate. In the end, the declaration of some activists that there is no future for political reformists within the Iranian system seemed to be borne out.
Beyond these stories, however, the reality was not much changed.
International media, in their effort at quick comprehension and presentation to their readers, put out the misleading claim that Something Very Big Had Changed. President Ahmadinejad been crushed, the headlines pronounced, in his showdown with the Supreme Leader.
That is much more than a simplification of the situation. By this second round of voting, the election was far from a "pro-Ahmadinejad" vs. "anti-Ahmadinejad/pro-Supreme Leader" contest. It was a muddle, with conservative and principlist factions sometimes manoeuvring against each other, sometimes sharing candidates, with individual candidates waging personal and political battles against other individuals, with local manoeuvres sometimes overtaking national ones.
The process had become so complicated, and indeed so mundane, that even the regime media seemed to lose their enthusiasm for the projection of the Islamic Republic's "magnificent victory" in the turnout of the people. Unless the first round, where there were weeks of cheerleading, the propaganda only hit the spotlight for a few days last week. In March, regime outlets were declaring 65% turnout even before the polls closed; yesterday, the only number that emerged was a far-from-magnificent 20% participation in Tehran.
There is an important conclusion to be drawn from Friday's outcome, but it is only a reiteration of what we noted after the first round two months ago, not in the overwhelming victory of a faction, but in the lack of one:
The...question...is whether the Supreme Leader's office has arranged a Parliamentary outcome that guarantees it will have no problems with the Majlis as well as the President. We projected on the eve of the vote that Ayatollah Khamenei's camp would seek a "mish-mash" of results, with no possibility of a faction or bloc that could exert independence.
That has been delivered....
Bye-bye, Mahmoud, nice knowing you. But let's not make a drama of this. While the Islamic Republic's system is far too complex to reduce it to the plaything of the Supreme Leader, "stability" --- if not legitimacy --- lay in an arrangement in which he and his circle could be assured that they would not face trouble from a President, Parliament, or judiciary.