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Reformers on track to take all Tehran seats in Iran elections

Reformist candidates in Iran appear set to win all 30 seats in the capital, Tehran. Such a result would be a resounding vote of confidence for President Rouhani, who struck a nuclear deal with world powers last year.

Allies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have won all of Tehran's parliamentary seats, according to initial results carried by state television on Sunday. The tally is based on around 90 percent of votes counted in the capital - a key battleground.

Around 33 million people cast ballots in Friday's vote to elect parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for choosing the next supreme leader. Both bodies have traditionally been controlled by hardliners close to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But the extent of Rouhani's gains in Tehran suggest the parliament may soon be more receptive to his plans to open Iran up to foreign trade and improve relations with the West.

"The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government," Rouhani said, adding he would work with lawmakers to build a future for the oil-exporting country.

Should the initial tally for Tehran be confirmed, it would mean the pro-Rouhani List of Hope, led by reformist Mohammad Reza Aref, would unseat leading conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad Adel. It would also see all eight women on the List of Hope elected.

Hassan Rouhani

Rouhani may get the support he needs to pass social and political reforms

No clear majority

More than 4,800 candidates are vying for the 290 seats in Iran's parliament. But while the reformists have made impressive gains in Tehran, they haven't fared as well in the provinces. None of Iran's main political groups - reformists, conservatives or hardliners - are expected to win a majority in the assembly.

The outcome of the vote is being seen as a de-facto referendum on President Rouhani, a political moderate, who successfully steered Iran towards a landmark nuclear deal with world powers last year, lifting sanctions that have stifled economic growth.

According to Foad Izadi, a politics professor at Tehran University's Faculty of World Studies, the nuclear agreement and the removal of sanctions were major factors behind the reformists' advances in Tehran.

"The reformists gained 30 percent and independent candidates did better than before, gaining 20 percent," he said. "It is a sweeping victory for Tehran but for other cities it is not yet clear cut. It is beyond expectations."

Final election results are expected in the next few days.

nm/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)