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Iranian moderates win back majority in parliament

Iranian reformists have secured the highest number of seats in the second round of parliamentary elections. The result is a big boost for President Rouhani, whose administration is seeking to improve ties with the West.

Reformists and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won almost twice as many seats as their conservative rivals in

run-off elections

. The reformist List of Hope gained 38 more lawmakers, whereas the hard-liners won 18 and independent candidates securing 12 seats, according to official results released on Saturday.

On Friday, the

run-off poll

was held in 68 constituencies where no candidate secured the minimum 25 percent of required votes in the first round.

President Rouhani's centrist allies made big gains in the first round of voting for parliament and a clerical body. The pro-Rouhani List of Hope and the conservatives gained 103 seats in the February vote.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the second National Conference on Women, Moderation, and Development at Islamic Summit Conference Hall, in Tehran, Iran on February 7, 2016 (Photo: picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/Presidency of Iran)

Rouhani's administration is trying to improve ties with the West

A working majority

The moderates have secured the largest number of seats in parliament in the two rounds of vote, but they are still short of an outright majority in a 290-member parliament. But it is a marked shift away from the previous parliament controlled by anti-West hard-liners.

It is the first time in a decade that the moderates have held a working majority in the country's legislature.

In total, the reformists have 143 seats in the assembly - only two shy of 50 percent. They are followed by conservatives, who have 86 seats, and independents with 61.

Mohammad Reza Aref, head of the moderate bloc, said the reformists would engage with other factions rather than confronting them, hinting at the possibility of an alliance with some independent lawmakers.

"It is now clear that the reformists are more popular than hard-liners, even in the remote areas," Saeed Leilaz, a Tehran-based political analyst, told The Associated Press news agency, adding that the run-off results were a "decisive victory" for the moderates in Iran.

A chance for reforms

The ballot was seen as a test for moderate President Rouhani, whose government signed off on a nuclear deal with several world powers less than a year ago.

The pro-Rouhani coalition aimed to break conservative dominance in the legislature in order to push through domestic reforms.

However, analysts do not expects the elections to usher in radical changes to Iran's domestic politics, which are controlled by the clergy and Supreme Leader Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters. But the reformists' victory is likely to increase pressure on the clerics.

There is a chance that the incoming members of the Assembly of Experts can find a successor to Khamenei. The Supreme Leader underwent prostate surgery in 2014, and there have been recent renewed speculations about his health.

Rouhani's administration is trying to improve ties with the West, which have been strained since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

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