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Rouhani on course for major gains in Iran elections

Tehran: Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani is on course to make sweeping gains against conservatives in parliament according to partial election results which today showed his allies winning decisively in Tehran.

The List of Hope, a pro-Rouhani coalition of moderates and reformists, is ahead in all but one of the capital’s 30 seats, with 44 per cent of votes counted.

The projected rout in Tehran was in marked contrast to earlier initial results from across the country which showed seats split between the main conservative list, Rouhani’s allies and independent candidates.

Coming just a month after sanctions were lifted under Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the outcome of yesterday’s vote is being seen as a de-facto referendum on Rouhani’s administration.

The president joined forces with reformists to try and curtail conservative dominance of parliament and create space to pass social and political reforms on which he has so far been blocked.

Early declarations published by the semi-official ISNA news agency, quoting electoral officials, suggested that no one faction would win a majority in parliament.

Out of 56 constituencies outside the capital, 19 went to the main list of conservatives, nine to the pro-Rouhani list, and 14 to independent candidates.

Of the independents six had ties to conservatives, five to reformists and three were undeclared. None of the remaining 14 seats had a clear winner, meaning a second round, not to take place until April or May, would be needed.

Turnout in the election was solid at 60 per cent, but slightly less than the 64 per cent of 2012.

There was further good news for the president in the second election that took place yesterday, for the Assembly of Experts, a powerful committee of clerics that monitors the work of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani and his close ally Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former two-term president, held the first two places among the 28 clerics seeking one of the 16 places reserved on the assembly for Tehran.

Thirteen of those on the Rouhani-Rafsanjani list for the assembly were in the top 16, with around one third of votes counted.