(Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani), 1934-, Iranian religious and political leader, president of Iran (1989-97). A Shiite clergyman and supporter of Ayotallah Khomeini
, Rafsanjani was imprisoned several times during the 1960s and 70s for his political activities. After the ouster of the Shah (see Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi
), Rafsanjani helped found the Islamic Republican party and built his political power base as speaker of the parliament (1980-89). From 1988 to 1989 he was also acting commander in chief of the armed forces. In 1989, Rafsanjani was elected president, receiving some 95% of the vote. A pragmatic conservative, he sought to revive Iran's badly flagging economy on free-market principles and moved to improve relations with the West, reestablish Iran as a regional power, and gradually reopen the country to foreign investment. He was reelected in 1993 with two thirds of the vote but was barred from seeking a third term in the 1997 elections. That year he was first appointed chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, which is responsible for resolving disputes between the parliament and Guardian Council concerning legislation (and in 2005 was also charged by Ayatollah Khamenei
with exercising some of his oversight responsibilities as supreme leader). In 2000 he was narrowly elected to parliament, but he soon resigned his seat. In 2005 Rafsanjani again ran for the presidency, but despite support from reformists in the runoff election he lost to hardline conservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
. In Dec., 2006, however, Rafsanjani won a landslide victory in his election to the Assembly of Experts in a reversal of the 2005 results. The previous month an Argentinian judge had issued a warrant for Rafsanjani's arrest in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center; Argentinian authorities accused Iran of backing the attack, a charge Iran rejected. Rafsanjani was elected speaker of the Assembly of Experts in 2007. During the 2009 presidential election he backed Mir Hossein Mousavi
, and after the vote and protests against Mousavi's loss he criticized the government reaction to the protests.
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