Ultra-conservative allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are lagging in key election battlegrounds after gains by moderate conservatives and a solid reformist showing.
Ahmadinejad loyalists trailed in the fight for Tehran city council, well behind moderate conservatives close to the city's current mayor, according to partial results from Friday's voting, cited by AFP.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has also gained a surprise win in the election for the Assembly of Experts in Tehran province, thrashing a cleric seen as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.
The double vote on Friday was seen as the first popularity test for Ahmadinejad since he came to power in 2005.
Across the country, Ahmadinejad allies were left well short of their aim of taking control of city councils nationwide, where seats were shared out between a sprinkling of hardliners, moderates and reformists.
The first results for Tehran city council showed allies of moderate conservative mayor Mohammad Qalibaf took an early lead, leaving the hardliners trailing in their wake. The pro-Qalibaf faction was expected to take a total of seven seats on the 15 member council, according to partial results based on 8.5 percent of the 2.2 million ballots.
Four reformists were also set to win seats -- a marked improvement from the last local vote in 2003 when they lost all their places on the formerly reformist-dominated council.
The Interior Ministry said only about 500,000 votes had been counted so far in Tehran, about 20 percent of the expected turnout.
In the southern historical city of Shiraz, as well as in the provincial capitals of Rasht, northern Iran, and Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, not one pro-Ahmadinejad candidate won a seat on the city council.