"According to the results in 132 voting centers, Iranian conservatives have won most of the votes," Aljazeera correspondent in Tehran, Ghassan Bin Jiddo reported.  

Election results in Tehran have showed the conservatives have won 29%-30% of the parliament seats, sources close to Iranian Interior Ministry told Aljazeera.  

Official sources said on Saturday reformists had only managed to win nine of the first 60 seats decided in Friday's race for the Majlis, or parliament, where they had seized a three-quarters majority four years ago. 

State media said partial results from several other districts also showed a strong showing for conservatives, who had been expected to romp home after powerful hardliners disqualified most reformist candidates. 

Definitive results were not expected before Sunday. 

There was no immediate word on how of Iran's 46.3 million eligible voters cast ballots, a crucial element with the clerical regime hoping for a large turnout to make their victory credible in the face of a boycott by most reformists. 

'Gigantic participation'

But the conservative press on Saturday already forecast a decent enough showing to thwart the boycott drive and refute criticism from the United States and elsewhere that the polls were undemocratic. 

The hardline Jomhuri Islami daily heralded a "gigantic participation" and the conservative Siyasat Rouz trumpeted, "Once again the Iranian people have defied the predictions of the foreigners." 

The conservatives, who have wielded the most power in Iran since the Islamic revolution 25 years ago, were set to add the parliament to the already long list of political and security institutions under their control. 

Many voters appeared to have been lured by right-wing pledges to focus their efforts on reviving a stagnant economy and promises not to impose puritanical Islamic regulation as feared by moderates. 

After winning a landslide four years ago, reformers have been subject to mounting criticism for their failure to deliver greater democracy or a focused effort to combat high unemployment and inflation. 

The main conservative bloc expected to do well was the Coalition of Builders of Islamic Iran, a grouping presenting itself as a pragmatic force of well-educated technocrats. 

'Bullet into the heart'

Conservatives are forecasting
a huge participation

Senior figures in the regime campaigned against a call by prominent outgoing reformers for a boycott, playing on nationalist and Islamic sentiment by calling each ballot cast a "bullet into the heart" of US President George Bush. 

The elections have capped a frustrating legislative mandate for the reformists, who captured three-quarters of the Majlis seats in 2000 with a huge wave of public support, but then saw hardline clerics block proposed changes at virtually every turn. 

The widely-expected conservative win would leave reformist President Muhammad Khatami as one of the few moderates left in public office. His second and final term in office ends in
mid-2005. 

Iran's deadlocked political system has triggered growing voter apathy. While two-thirds of the electorate cast ballots in the 2000 legislative elections, less than half turned out for local polls last year. 

'Important as praying'

"Once again the Iranian people have defied the predictions of the foreigners." 

Siyasat Rouz,
Conservative

But the regime hoped conservatives could also bring voters out. Supreme leader Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei delivered a broadside at "the enemies (who) are trying hard to stop the people from going to the ballot boxes." 

And Ayat Allah Ahmad Janati, head of the powerful Guardians Council - a hardline bastion behind the blacklist of 2300 would-be candidates - told worshippers that "voting is as important as praying". 

Khatami also urged Iranians to vote massively - and to "surprise" the hardliners by choosing the few reformists who were approved to stand or were not boycotting.