Strong showing for Iranian reformists in early election results

Strong showing for Iranian reformists in early election results
Preliminary results of Iran's Friday elections show gains for candidates open to greater cooperation with the West - but formal results will not be released for several days.
2 min read
27 February, 2016
The opening of polling stations were extended for six hours on Friday [Anadolu]
Early results from the Iranian parliamentary elections saw moderate conservatives and reformist candidates make their strongest gains in more than a decade.

Twenty-five percent of the results were counted by Saturday morning, the interior ministry confirmed, but a final tally is unlikely to be known before Monday.

The outcome of the elections, which comes just a month after sanctions were lifted under Iran's nuclear deal, will be regarded as a de-facto referendum on moderate President Hassan Rouhani's government.

Fars and Mehr, both Iranian news agencies, reported on Saturday that candidates from Iran's powerful hard-line camp had lost ground.

Reformists seeking greater democratic changes and stronger ties with the West appear to be heading towards their strongest presence in the 290-seat parliament since 2004.

This is greatly to the advantage of the Iranian president, who seeks to curtail the conservative dominance of parliament for a chance to make social and political reforms.

[Voting is] both a duty and a right

The first set of formal results are expected to come from the provinces, but the vote tally in the capital, Tehran, which has a population of 12 million and was electing 30 lawmakers, will take around three days.

Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, was among the first to vote and he urged the country's 55 million-strong electorate to follow suit, saying "it's both a duty and a right".

Voter turnout

At least 32 million voters took part in Friday's parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, interior ministry spokesman Hossein-Ali Amiri confirmed.

The opening of polling stations was extended for six hours on Friday to allow millions of latecomers to cast their vote.

But the 59 percent voter turnout recorded so far was a five percent drop from the 2012 parliamentary elections.

But "the numbers will increase", as not all ballots had yet been taken into account, Amiri said.

A second round of voting is also set to take place in a number of cities where no candidate received more than 25 percent of the votes.

As well as 290 MPs, voters were also electing the Assembly of Experts, a committee of clerics responsible for monitoring the work of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While MPs are elected for four years, the Assembly of Experts has an eight-year term.

If Khamenei, who is 76, dies during the next eight-year period, members of the assembly will choose his replacement.

Definitive results are to be confirmed by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council, charged with monitoring the vote.