Millions vote in Iran as moderates appear to make gains

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An Iranian woman holding her daughter casts her ballot during elections for the parliament and Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, in Tehran February 26, 2016.Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

An Iranian woman holding her daughter casts her ballot during elections for the parliament and Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, in Tehran February 26, 2016.Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

Moderate Iranian candidates on Saturday appeared to gain significant traction in national elections, early polling indicated, in what may be a strong backing of the country’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani, who is credited with forming a nuclear pact that helped ease sanctions imposed by the west after crippling the country’s economy in recent years.

Millions of Iranians flooded to the polls on Friday to choose hundreds of parliamentary and dozens of assembly seats, with both bodies ultimately deciding who will be the country’s supreme leader, a position outranking even the president.

On Saturday, partial results collected showed a turn from the hardline candidates that have largely dominated Iran’s political landscape for years, with those advocating for greater freedoms in Iran and favoring the nuclear agreement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a session of Supreme Health Council, in Tehran February 22, 2016. Millions voted for Iran's parliament and the Assembly of Experts. President.ir/Handout via Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a session of Supreme Health Council, in Tehran February 22, 2016. Millions voted for Iran’s parliament and the Assembly of Experts. President.ir/Handout via Reuters

State news agencies reported reformist party members were on course to have their best showing in more than 10 years, while all of Iran’s three leading parties failed to capture a majority, according to the Associated Press.

Rouhani said to the Iranian news agency the results, which would be finalized on Monday, showed that voters supported engagement with the west and “gave more credibility and strength to their elected government” by choosing candidates who favor reforms. About 30 million people voted this week.

“The competition is over,” Rouhani was quoted as saying. “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 him as saying. He added that the government would cooperate with anyone elected to build Iran’s future.

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