By Ali Akbar Dareini
Reformists and moderate conservatives were leading in parliamentary elections, according to early results on Saturday, an indication President Hassan Rouhani may face a more friendly house to pursue his domestic agenda.
Early returns from Friday's polls show that none of the three competing political factions will win a majority in the 290-seat parliament. But reformists seeking greater democratic changes are heading toward their strongest presence since 2004 at the expense of hard-liners.
Friday's election for Iran's parliament and a powerful clerical body known as the Assembly of Experts was the first since Iran's nuclear deal with world powers last year.
Reformists seeking greater democratic changes and moderates supporting Rouhani appear to be cashing in on the lifting of international sanctions the moderate president achieved under last summer's historic agreement.
Nearly 55 million of Iran's 80 million people were eligible to vote. Participation figures and other statistics were not immediately available, though Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli predicted late on Thursday there would be a turnout of 70 per cent.
Polls were closed at midnight and officials immediately began counting the ballots afterward. As more ballots are counted, reformists appear to be on the path to expand their presence from the fewer than 20 seats they currently hold.
The hard-line camp is largely made up of loyalists of Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who during his two terms in office avidly stoked tensions with the US and cracked down on internal dissidents.
In a bid to squeeze them out, reformists have allied with moderate conservatives, many of whom split with the hard-liners because of Ahmadinejad.