Independent Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh is leading among Egyptian expatriates who have already voted in the country's presidential ballot, semi-official results published by Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper revealed on Friday.

Abol Fotouh - a former Muslim Brotherhood member who abandoned the party to run his own campaign - was ranking first with 11,934 votes counted at 15 embassies and consulates worldwide.

He was followed by the leftist-Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahy at 8,287 votes, and former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa at 7,418 votes.

The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Mursi, and former prime minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, came in the third and fourth with 6,996 and 3,499 votes, respectively, according to the Al-Ahram report.

Egyptians at home will head to the polls on May 23 and 24 to vote for the country's new president, the first to replace Mubarak, who assumed the presidency in 1981 following the assassination of president Anwar El Sadat.

The five candidates leading the expatriate vote are widely seen as frontrunners in a race that includes eight other candidates.

The election as it stands is far from decided, and Egypt's expatriate voters may provide the necessary push to nudge any one candidate to the front of the race.

One recent Baseera Center poll revealed that some 37% of Egyptian remain undecided about which candidate they want to see rise to Egyptian's presidential seat.

So, while Abol Fotouh, Moussa and Shafiq have been swapping positions for the front-runner in a tight race, it is too soon to predict who may triumph in what many call the North African Arab country's first truly open presidential election.

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