Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's bloc was poised to form parliament's single largest grouping Tuesday, after results indicated the incumbent had strengthened his hold on key Baghdad province. Maliki's main rival, secular ex-premier Iyad Allawi, leads in five provinces, with two-thirds of votes having been counted nationwide.
According to AFP, officials said that updated results, based on 85 percent of ballots counted, would be posted later on Tuesday. Preliminary results, based on 60 percent of ballots counted in Baghdad, showed Maliki's State of Law Alliance held a 65,000-vote lead over Allawi's Iraqiya bloc with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition of Shiite religious groups, a distant third.
Maliki also holds leads in the province of Basra, the third-biggest in Iraq, as well as five predominantly Shiite provinces south of Baghdad.
Opposition groups have alleged fraud in the election and the count, but election officials have also downplayed allegations of fraud. Faraj al-Haidari, head of the national election commission, conveyed the number of complaints in the general election was less than half those filed during provincial polls in January 2009.
Figures released on Monday showed Allawi, a Shiite Arab like Maliki, was narrowly ahead in the northern oil province of Kirkuk, defying predictions of a win for the Kurdish bloc which wants to incorporate Kirkuk into autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in the north.
Iraqiya is also leading in Nineveh, Iraq's second-largest province around the main northern city of Mosul, as well as the mostly Sunni provinces of Anbar, Diyala and Salaheddin.
The INA, meanwhile, is ahead in three Shiite southern provinces while Kurdistania, an alliance of the two main Kurdish former rebel factions, was ahead in all three of Kurdistan's provinces.