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Iraq election race too tight to call after early count

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Iraqi election results come in
  • Early results of Iraq's national elections announced in five of Iraq's 18 provinces
  • A coalition led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi ahead in two others
  • Officials expect to release more early results Friday
  • Nearly two out of three eligible voters turned out and 38 people were killed on voting day

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The first results from Iraq's parliamentary elections were released Thursday, five days after millions of Iraqis went to the polls in defiance of the threat of violence.

Five of Iraq's 18 provinces announced early results, but it may be some time before a clear picture emerges of who will lead Iraq.

The group led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in the lead in two provinces, while a coalition led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was ahead in two others. Kurdish parties were taking the largest share of the vote in Irbil, the fifth province to release partial results.

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The predominantly Shiite Iraqi National Alliance -- which includes the secular politician Ahmed Chalabi as well as followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- also seems to have substantial support.

The INA and Allawi's Al-Iraqia both charged Thursday there had been vote fraud.

They asked election officials to publish results from every voting center across the country. The Independent High Electoral Commission told CNN they will be publishing those tally sheets on their Web site.

Thursday's results are preliminary -- only about a third of the votes have been counted in the southern provinces of Najaf and Babel. About a quarter of the votes have been counted in Irbil, and 17 percent in Diyala and Salaheddin provinces.

Election officials had originally said they would release early province-by province-results only when 30 percent of the votes had been counted in that province. But Thursday evening they announced returns from three provinces that had not reached that threshold, under pressure from political blocs.

The other 13 provinces have not announced any results yet. Officials expect to release more early results on Friday.

Final results, which need to be certified by Iraq's Supreme Federal Court, are expected to be released at the end of the month. If no party wins a majority of seats, then coalition haggling will begin.

Millions of Iraqis defied the threat of violence Sunday to cast ballots in the parliamentary elections. Nearly two out of three eligible voters turned out. Some 38 people were killed in attacks on voting day.

About 6,200 candidates from more than 80 political entities are vying for 325 seats in the Council of Representatives, as Iraq's parliament is called.

The political coalition that ends up with the most number of seats in parliament will put forward a candidate for prime minister.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report