[Posted, 8:03 p.m.] The mostly Shiite Iraqi National Alliance was ahead in three provinces, according to the electoral commission. The coalition is backed by the country's predominantly Shiite neighbor, Iran, and includes controversial secular politician Ahmed Chalabi, as well as some of Iraq's top Shiite religious parties - including followers of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
An alliance of Iraq's major Kurdish parties led in the three majority-Kurdish provinces in northeastern Iraq.
The latest figures from the Independent High Electoral Commission are based on about 80 percent of the votes cast within Iraq in the March 7 election. Still to be counted are the remainder of those ballots, plus votes from the country's army and police force, prisoners, hospital patients and 270,000-plus votes from Iraqis living abroad.
– CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.