With 79 percent of the votes in the Iraq election counted, the coalition of secular challenger Iyad Allawi drew closer to the religious Shiite list of Prime Minister Maliki. The close election indicates months of negotiation before a new government is formed.
Allegations of fraud swirled around ballot counting in Baghdad Thursday, as Iraq election results started to trickle in.
Early election results show Prime Minister Maliki leading in the Iraq election.
Iraq election turnout fell relative to Iraq's last parliamentary elections in 2005. The first indication of results is expected Wednesday, but it will likely take months to build a coalition government.
Campaigning for the Iraq parliamentary election scheduled for March opened quietly on Friday, shadowed by concerns that some candidates with ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party could be disqualified.