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Moderates Seen Making Early Gains in High-Stakes Iran Vote

Millions thronged polling stations to vote for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts for Iran.

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Moderates and reformists supporting President Hassan Rouhani appeared to have made a strong showing in high stakes elections that could speed or slow Iran’s post-sanctions opening to the world, according to early unofficial results on Saturday.

Tens of millions thronged polling stations on Friday to vote for parliament and the Assembly of Experts in a poll seen by analysts as a potential turning point for Iran, where nearly 60 percent of the 80 million population is under 30.

Millions thronged polling stations to vote for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts  for Iran.
Iranian women show their identification, as they queue in a polling station to vote. (Photo: AP)

Interior Ministry officials said counting of the votes in Tehran and other cities was still not final, but preliminary results carried out by the semi-official Fars and Mehr News agencies indicate reformists and independents linked to them were leading so far against hardliners in several cities.

Even if reformists do not emerge with a majority in the 290-seat legislature, dominated since 2004 by anti-Western conservatives, analysts say they will secure a bigger presence than in the past elections.

“Initial counting shows tight competition between the two sides. It is still too early to determine who will come out on top, as votes are still being counted in Tehran and outside
Official Iranian Source

A first batch of results approved by the Guardian Council which supervises elections showed eight reformists, nine independents and 11 hardline “principlists” won seats.

Conservatives usually perform well in the countryside while young town-dwellers tend to prefer moderate candidates.

Millions thronged polling stations to vote for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts  for Iran.
Iranian clergymen vote in the parliamentary and Experts Assembly elections at a polling station in Qom. (Photo: AP)

Reformists seeking more social and economic freedoms and diplomatic engagement voiced high hopes of expanding their influence or even taking control of parliament and of easing conservative clerics’ grip on the 88-member experts’ assembly that chooses the supreme leader.

It seems the number of candidates who belong to the reformist and independent groups will be the majority in parliament and I am hopeful that the new parliament will be perfect for us.
Saeed Leylaz, Adviser to former President Mohammad Khatami
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Huge Turnout

Newspapers hailed what they saw as a huge turnout, including many young voters. Polling was extended five times for a total of almost six extra hours because so many people wanted to vote.

Iran’s Financial Tribune newspaper said three million first-time voters were among the nearly 55 million people aged 18 and over who are eligible to cast ballots.

Millions thronged polling stations to vote for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts  for Iran.
Iranians stand in line at a polling station. (Photo: AP) 

The elections were the first since Tehran last year agreed with six major powers to curb its nuclear programme, leading to the removal of most of the stringent international sanctions that have paralysed the economy over the past decade.

Authorities had promised that all Iranians would be able to vote and on Friday opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife voted for the first time since being put under house arrest in 2011, an ally of Mousavi’s told Reuters.

Both camps appeared successful in getting supporters out to vote on Friday. Although extensions of voting are common in Iranian elections, many were surprised to see voting booths still packed in mid-evening.

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