Iranians voted on Friday in parliamentary elections, the country's first since its landmark nuclear deal with world powers last summer. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

President Hassan Rouhani won a resounding vote of confidence, and reformist allies won 29 out of Tehran’s 30 seats to parliament in elections that could speed Iran’s post-sanctions opening to the world, early results released on Saturday showed.

Tens of millions thronged polling stations on Friday for a twin vote for the 290-seat parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which selects the country’s highest authority, the supreme leader.

Rouhani’s reformist allies made gains in the races for parliament and the assembly, both in the hands of anti-Western hard-liners for years. He said Iran’s election had given the government more credibility and clout.

“The competition is over. It’s time to open a new chapter in Iran’s economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying. He added that the government would cooperate with anyone elected to build Iran’s future. “The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government.”

While moderates are expected to win the majority of seats representing Tehran, the balance of power in the parliament remains uncertain. Conservatives usually perform well in the countryside, while young town-dwellers tend to prefer moderate candidates.

A woman distributes electoral posters in downtown Tehran. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Interior Ministry spokesman Hosseinali Amiri said that more than 33 million votes had been cast but that the tally was not final. It would probably take three days to count all the votes, he said.

Even if reformists do not emerge with a national majority in the legislature, analysts say they will secure a bigger presence than before.

Rouhani and key ally and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were also leading the race for the Assembly of Experts with most votes counted and appeared to be sure of winning seats, early results released Saturday showed.

Rafsanjani, 81, a prominent leader since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, called for national unity. “The competition is over and the phase of unity and cooperation has arrived,” IRNA quoted him as saying. “The time after elections is the time for hard work to build the country.”

The elections were seen by analysts as a potential turning point for Iran, where nearly 60 percent of the 80 million population is under age 30. The elections were the first since a landmark nuclear deal last year that led to the removal of most of the international sanctions that have damaged the economy over the past decade.

Supporters of Rouhani, who championed the nuclear deal, were pitted against hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who are deeply wary of detente with Western countries.

Reformists seeking more social and economic freedoms and diplomatic engagement had voiced high hopes of expanding their influence in parliament.

Saeed Leylaz, a political analyst and economist who served as an adviser to former president Mohammad Khatami, said initial indications were beyond reformist expectations.

“It seems the number of candidates who belong to the reformist and independent groups will be the majority in parliament, and I am hopeful that the new parliament will be perfect for us,” he said.

— Reuters

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