PHOTO: Speaker Ali Larijani is congratulated by challenger Mohammad Reza Aref after re-election on Sunday

After days of political maneuvers, Ali Larijani has been re-elected Iran’s Speaker of Parliament.

Larijani, who has held the chair since 2008, was able to fend off the challenge of leading reformist MP Mohammad Reza Aref in a ballot on Sunday. The Speaker triumphed by 173 votes to 103.

Aref’s campaign was bolstered by his leadership of the centrist-reformist List of Hope, which had unexpected success in Parliamentary elections to become the largest faction in the Majlis. Despite some reformist calls to stand aside in a unified effort behind Larijani, Aref decided to stand in the final ballot.

However, Larijani reinforced his position by distancing himself from conservatives who had dominated Parliament for more than a decade before their setbacks in February and April. The Speaker had declined to join the main conservative list for the elections, and he maintained good relations with centrists, including allies of President Rouhani.

His re-election as Speaker raises the prospect of a reformed bloc to wield influence in the Majlis, in which the List of Hope has a plurality but not a majority of seats.

One of the first items of business for the Majlis, which opened on Saturday, will be consideration of the Government’s long-delayed 2016-2017 budget. The proposals were supposed to be tabled in December, but were held up first by implementation of the nuclear deal and then by the elections.

A caricature of Larijani, glued to his Speaker’s seat, as Aref looks on: