Partial results from Iraq's election show Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's coalition is ahead in Baghdad, which accounts for 20% of parliament's seats.
Although there are still no results from half of Iraq's 18 provinces, partial counts released so far this week show Mr Maliki leading in five.
He is followed closely by former prime minister Iyad Allawi, who heads a coalition of Sunni and Shia groups.
Final results are not expected for another fortnight, and there is then expected to be a long process of coalition-building talks.
Sectarian violence erupted as politicians took months to form a government after the 2005 parliamentary election.