The hardline Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sweeping toward a stunning presidential election victory over the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, officials said early this morning.

“Ahmadinejad is well ahead and it seems he is the winner,” said an Interior Ministry official, who declined to be named. “Poor provinces have voted massively for Ahmadinejad.”

An official at the Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council, which must approve the election results, said that with 12.9 million votes counted, Mr Ahmadinejad had secured 61 per cent.

The official said turnout was 22 million, 47 per cent, which was well down on the 63 per cent of Iran’s 46.7 million eligible voters who cast ballots in the first round on 17 June. A final result is expected today. ~The Independent