Larger Iranian cities were expected to declare their winners from Friday's vote on Sunday although those from Tehran - the most crucial results of all - were not expected before Monday.

But officials and the various coalitions agreed that conservatives were heading for around 70 per cent of seats in the next parliament and reformists 20 per cent, with independents making up the rest.

"More than 71 per cent of the seats inside the parliament have been won by the conservatives," Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, interior minister, announced on the basis of partial results from an unspecified number of seats.

Respectable minority

But reformists also hailed their own performance as a "remarkable success". Despite the disqualifications, they said they were on course to win around 50 seats - not including Tehran - in the 290-seat parliament.

"Despite all the restrictions...we managed to disturb the game of our opponents," Abdollah Nasseri, reformist coalition spokesman, told reporters.

This would mean that reformists have managed to keep a respectable minority in the parliament, where they currently have around 40 MPs, despite losing hundreds of their best candidates in the vetting.

Voter turnout was said to
be around 60 per cent[AFP]

Pour Mohammadi hailed the turnout of around 60 per cent in the poll - slightly lower than initial estimates but far higher than the lacklustre figure in the previous election in 2004.

But the United States condemned the elections after the disqualification by the hardline Guardians Council of hundreds of reformist candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The results are "cooked in the sense that the Iranian people were not able to vote for a full range of people," Sean McCormack, state department spokesman, said.

Ali Larijani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator standing for conservatives in the holy city of Qom, was elected in a landslide victory with 76 per cent of the vote, the Fars news agency said.

Tehran contest

The Tehran race will be particularly closely watched as the reformists were able to compete for all 30 seats available there, leaving them in a fairly even competition with the conservatives.

"Despite all the restrictions...we managed to disturb the game of our opponents"

Abdolla Nasseri, reformist spokesman

The elections were also marked by divisions in the conservative camp that led to two coalitions called "Unified Front" and "Broad Coalition" - the latter distinctly less enthusiastic about the populist president.

The Broad Coalition is a breakaway group inspired by heavyweight conservatives annoyed by Ahmadinejad's confrontational foreign policy and expansionary economic measures.

The faction of diehard Ahmadinejad loyalists, the "Sweet Scent of Service", has been running on the Unified Front list.

Iran is enduring inflation of almost 18 per cent, a problem economists blame on the government injecting massive amounts of cash into the economy to fund infrastructural projects in the provinces promised by the president.

But Ahmadinejad is still believed to enjoy great support amongst the urban poor, especially outside the capital.