(CNN) -- Angola's ruling party held a big lead Saturday as the southern African nation posted preliminary results in its benchmark national election.
With almost 70% of the vote counted, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had almost 75% of the vote.
Friday's election was only Angola's third since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
Under the terms of a constitution approved in 2010, the leader of the party that wins Friday's parliamentary vote will automatically become Angola's president.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power since 1979, had been widely expected to retain the top spot as the head of the MPLA.
After independence, Angola suffered through 27 years of civil war. Friday's election were widely viewed as an indicator of the country's progress after a decade of peace.
Elections in 1992 were abandoned midway and led to an outbreak of further violence. The MPLA won the 2008 parliamentary vote with a landslide 82%.
It appeared from early results that the MPLA was headed for another comfortable victory.
The main opposition party and a former civil war enemy of the MPLA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), is among the nine political parties and coalitions contesting the election for 220 members of the National Assembly.
UNITA won about 18% of the vote in the preliminary results. Seven other parties split up the rest of the vote.
UNITA has alleged fraud in previous elections and again voiced concerns about apparent irregularities in election campaigning this time around. But on Saturday, spokesman Alcides Sakala said the party would recognize the election results, the official Angola News Agency reported.