The conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are well ahead in Iran's parliamentary elections, with preliminary results on Saturday estimating support for the Principalists at around 75 per cent.

In another setback for Mr. Ahmadinejad, his sister failed to win a seat in the Garmsar district, local media reported.

Conservative candidates loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are expected to secure a comfortable majority in the 290-member parliament. These include the politically important 30 seats up for grabs in the capital.

According to Press TV reports, the conservative faction has so far been assigned 112 seats and the reformists 28 seats. The president’s wing trails with just 10 seats.

However, vote counting had not yet ended and it was still unclear how many candidates had secured the required two-third majority and how many would have to face a run-off.

As there is no Western-style party system in Iran, the political stance of many of the candidates is difficult to categorize.

What was already clear, however, was that Ali Larijani, the top candidate of the conservative faction and a fierce critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad, was elected with an overwhelming majority.

The 53-year-old ran for the district of Qom, 140 kilometres south of the capital Tehran, which is known as the stronghold of the country’s clergy.

Mr. Larijani, who currently acts as parliament speaker, is viewed as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main rival in next year’s presidential election.

In a highly symbolic result, Parvin Ahmadinejad, the president’s sister, failed in her bid to win a seat in the president’s hometown of Garmsar.

According to unconfirmed reports, the conservatives also secured victories in the Tehran district, with at least two of the 30 Tehran seats going to the Labour Party of Iran, according to reports.

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar on Saturday put turnout at 64.2 per cent, with turnout in the capital at 52 per cent. The local opposition, however, has cast doubts on those figures.

The likely victory by conservatives was set to strengthen the power of the clergy, but would have little impact on the country’s foreign policy — including on its controversial nuclear weapons programme. According to the country’s constitution, only Khamenei has the final say on such matters.

The elections are the first national test for Ahmadinejad since his disputed re-election in 2009.

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