After 60 per cent of Iran's electorate voted on Friday, the final results will not be known for another three days, but early indications are for a hung parliament with the reformists making their strongest showing yet.
Reformists and moderate conservatives are leading in the race for Iran's parliament according to early election results, indicating that President Hassan Rouhani may face a relatively friendlier house to pursue his domestic agenda.
Early returns this morning from Friday's parliamentary polls show that none of the three competing political factions will win a majority alone in the 290-seat parliament, but reformists seeking greater democratic changes are heading to win their strongest presence in parliament since 2004 at the expense of hardliners.
Officials are yet to release any results but reports in the semi-official Fars and Mehr news agencies and a count conducted by The Associated Press show that hard-liners are the main losers of the vote.
Friday's election for Iran's parliament and a powerful clerical body known as the Assembly of Experts was the first since Iran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers last year.
Around 60 per cent of voters cast ballots in the elections after polling stations were kept open to allow millions of latecomers to participate, Tehran's interior ministry said today.
Coming just a month after sanctions were lifted under Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, the outcome of the vote is being seen as a de-facto referendum on President Hassan Rouhani's government.
A political moderate, Rouhani is hoping an alliance with reformists can eliminate or at least curtail conservative dominance of parliament, giving him a chance of passing social and political reforms.
At least 33 million out of 55 million eligible voters took part in polls for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts - a powerful clerical body that appoints the country's supreme leader - interior ministry Hossein-Ali Amiri told state television. "The numbers will increase" as not all ballots have been counted, Amiri added.
A second round will be organised in a number of cities for seats where no candidate received more than 25 per cent of votes, he said, without providing further details.
Definitive results must be confirmed by the conservative- dominated Guardian Council - charged with monitoring the vote - and are not expected for several days.
As well as 290 MPs, voters were also selecting the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member committee of clerics that is responsible for monitoring the work of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Lawmakers are elected for four years, but the assembly has an eight-year term. Should Khamenei, who is 76, die during that time its members would choose his replacement.
Days to go
The first results are expected to come from the provinces, but the vote tally in the capital, which has a population of 12 million and was electing 30 lawmakers, will take around three days.
Khamenei, who is the Islamic republic's ultimate authority, was among the first to vote and he urged the country's 55-million-strong electorate to follow suit, as "it's both a duty and a right".
Participation in parliamentary elections four years ago was 64 per cent nationwide and 48 per cent in Tehran.
A higher turnout would help Rouhani and his reformist allies, after many moderate voters stayed away in 2012 in protest at the re-election three years earlier of hardline Ppresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Known as the "diplomat sheikh" because of his clerical credentials and willingness to negotiate, Rouhani was the driving force behind the nuclear deal, which he delivered despite political pressure at home.