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Early Poll Results Show Iraqi PM in Tight Race

Iraq's election remains too close to call. Partial results Friday showed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition holding a slim overall lead over a faction led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The outcome of Iraq's election remains up in the air, as election officials continue to count ballots.

As of late Friday, partial tallies had been released from only seven of Iraq's 18 provinces. Results from Baghdad, a pivotal area, have not yet been announced. The city accounts for almost a fifth of the seats in parliament.

Initial results show Mr. Maliki's State of Law bloc with a slim overall lead over former prime minister Iyad Allawi and his secular Iraqiya faction.

The elections commission also announced that the mostly Shi'ite Iraqi National Alliance had pulled ahead in a province near the border with Iran.

In the northern province of Irbil, part of the autonomous Kurdistan region, the Kurdish Alliance was ahead, officials said.

No single faction is expected to win an outright majority.

Political analysts expect lengthy negotiations before Iraq's new government takes shape.

"We are going to see a dynamic, exciting political process that will happen inside Iraq and I think that we will emerge with a government that is made stronger by the negotiating process," said Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War.

Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, a research director with the institute, said "I think that, because it looks like the top four parties are going to be relatively close to one another, it is going to require a significant amount of political maneuvering, brokering deals, a lot of horse-trading behind closed doors to form a government. In terms of the time length, I think you are looking at months, not weeks."

Meanwhile, Mr. Maliki's rivals say the election process has been tainted by fraud.

The Iraqiya coalition claims that ballots were found in garbage dumps.

The party claims voting was rigged to boost the totals for Mr. Maliki's coalition.

Both Iraqiya and the Iraqi National Alliance have called for greater transparency in the counting of votes.

But Iraq's election commission has downplayed allegations of fraud.