ULAN BATOR, MONGOLIA, JULY 30 (MONDAY) -- Mongolians narrowly elected Communist Party chief Gombojavyn Ochirbat in a key legislative race of this nation's first multiparty elections, early results showed today.

Mongolians traveling on trucks, horseback and on foot flocked to polling stations Sunday in the final round of legislative elections.

An election official told reporters an hour before polls closed that 91.9 percent of about 1 million people eligible had voted. The turnout was swift and huge for a nation where some herdsmen had to ride vast distances to reach a polling place.

The official said problems included the withdrawal in one district of the sole candidate and reports of people voting twice in other districts. The official declined to comment on claims that voters in a few districts had refused to vote because of intimidation by local Communist chiefs. Foreign observers said voting around the capital had generally appeared fair and orderly.

"The ruling party will win. The opposition may win about 20 percent," Ochirbat said as he voted.

In the most dramatic race of the election, the Communist Party leader narrowly defeated his non-Communist challenger, Ganbold, a 29-year-old lawyer. Ganbold's party, the Party of New Progress, said Ochirbat won slightly more than 51 percent of the vote in Ulan Bator's legislative District 12, to Ganbold's nearly 48 percent.

Nationwide figures are not expected until Tuesday.

The Communists should retain power in the supreme legislative house, the Great People's Hural, diplomats said. But the three democratic opposition parties have a slim chance of beating the Communists in the smaller, standing legislature, the Small Hural, they said.

The diplomats said the 53-seat Small Hural will be the more important because it will be in almost permanent session. The Great People's Hural, with 430 seats, is to meet only four times in five years.

Opposition leaders said they expected to win no more than 30 percent of seats in the larger house.