TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian moderates swept toward a landslide victory in the parliament, edging out several leading hard-liners and opening a path for President Hashemi Rafsanjani's moves toward better relations with the West, the official Iranian news agency reported yesterday.
Several of Mr. Rafsanjani's key allies captured seats in the 270-seat Majlis, while well-known radicals placed well down in the balloting and were likely to be shut out of the seats
that they have used as a forum for maintaining the combative line set by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A total of 127 seats have been decided in the balloting so far, with the count still incomplete for Tehran's major bloc of 30 seats and two other seats in the countryside. Radical clerics appeared to be headed for defeat in the capital city among the ballots counted so far, Radio Tehran reported late yesterday.
"Tehran's early results speak of an easy victory" for Mr. Rafsanjani'ssupporters, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. It called the results a "landslide" victory for the outspoken president, who has angered the clerics by suggesting the adoption of a free-market economy and the development of better relations with Europe and with Iran's Arab neighbors.
In recent years, Mr. Rafsanjani's reforms have been bogged down in the Majlis, where a hard-line majority has been able to block Cabinet appointments and water down many of the president's key legislative programs.
Only about 80 members of the last Majlis could be counted on to back the president, although he often pushed through legislation by swinging independent votes, diplomats and analysts said.
Seats in at least 68 constituencies will be decided in a runoff election because no candidates secured a majority the first time around, but results so far indicate a clear trend toward Mr. Rafsanjani's Society of Combatant Clergymen, or Ruhaniyat.
The top vote-getter in Tehran was a popular television cleric, Ali Akbar Hosseini, a mild-mannered mullah who draws millions of viewers for his Saturday night program on Islam and the family.
Some of Iran's most famous militant clerics did not score among the top 30 vote-getters for Tehran's 30 seats among the ballots counted so far.
They included the speaker of parliament, Mehdi Karrubi; Ali Akbar Mohteshemi, the former interior minister who helped found Hezbollah, Lebanon's militant organization of Shiite Muslims; and Musavi Khoeiniha, a spokesman for the student group that seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Diplomats have worried that a failure of these militants to win at least a sizable minority in parliament will force them underground. "If they don't have a legitimate outlet of political expression, I'm going back to my bullet-proof car," one foreign envoy said.
The new parliament is scheduled to be seated May 28.