Ayad Allawi edges ahead of Iraq PM in overall vote count

BAGHDAD – A secular challenger to Iraq's prime minister has again edged ahead in parliamentary elections now that the vote count is nearly complete.

Partial results released Saturday show former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi leading by 7,970 votes. That's based on a tally of 93 percent of ballots.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition is still winning in seven of Iraq's 18 provinces, compared with five for Allawi's Iraqiya alliance. That's significant because seats in the 325-member parliament are allotted by province.

Still, Allawi's slight nationwide lead reflects strong support for him in the ethnically mixed Diyala province and among some Sunnis in Baghdad. The Shiite politician has forged alliances with Sunnis.