Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Sunday for a manual recount of votes cast in the country's March 7 polls.
The election is Iraq's second for a full four-year parliament under the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. President Barack Obama has promised to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by the end of next year.
It differs markedly from Maliki's own comments just a week ago, when he said election complaints "cannot affect the results."
The call came after new results from the electoral commission on Saturday showed secularist challenger Iyad Allawi edging ahead of Maliki's bloc by about 8,000 votes with about 93 percent of the counting complete.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, also issued a statement on Sunday asking the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) for a recount in some provinces.
In the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, an estimated 300 demonstrators gathered on Sunday near a provincial government building, demanding a recount.
Maliki, noted in a statement late of Saturday there were demands from several political blocs to manually recount the votes.
"I call on the High Electoral Commission to respond immediately to the demands of those blocs to preserve the political stability and prevent the security situation from deteriorating and avoid the return of violence," he said.
Faraj al-Haidari, head of the electoral commission, said members would meet on Sunday to discuss Maliki's demand but questioned the need for a recount.
"If there is a glitch, they can file a complaint and say there was a glitch in that station," he said. "They say they want a manual count, but this is up to the commissioners' board to decide. We do an accurate electronic count."
The vote counting has been dogged by allegations of fraud.
Supporters of Maliki's State of Law coalition asked for a recount in Baghdad after initial results showed their candidate trailing the Iraqiya bloc led by Allawi, a Shi'ite former prime minister with wide support among minority Sunnis.
The IHEC had said the count was fair and included multiple checks against fraud.
Maliki and Allawi have been locked in a neck-and-neck race and the lead in the popular vote has changed hands several times.
Seats in the 325-member parliament will be allocated on the basis of each coalition's results in each of the 18 provinces, not by the national vote count.
Maliki leads in seven provinces in central and southern Iraq, six of them mainly Shi'ite.
Allawi swept western and northern areas that are home to large numbers of Sunni Arabs. He also holds a narrow lead over the powerful Kurdish ruling party in Kirkuk, the disputed city that is Iraq's northern oil hub.
Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is one of two groups that have dominated Kurdish politics for decades. The alliance of the two leads in three provinces.
Complete election results are expected in the coming days. Final results -- after all complaints have been investigated and ruled upon -- are likely by the end of the month.
Related news reports:Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Mart 2010, 18:43