Emily O'Reilly has come out on top of the first vote by MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg for a new European Ombudsman.
Ms O'Reilly, who has been nominated for a second term, received 240 votes in the first ballot.
Her closest challenger is Estonian judge at the European Court for Human Rights Julia Laffranque, who received 162 votes in the first round of voting.
A majority of 295 is needed to be elected in the first ballot.
The second vote, which is seen as more significant, will take place tomorrow.
There are five candidates in the running and the deadline to withdraw their candidacy is 8pm tonight.
The European Ombudsman is elected by secret ballot for a five-year term.
The office investigates complaints from citizens, EU residents and EU-based organisations about poor administration by EU institutions.
It reports back to the European Parliament each year.
During her time in office, Ms O'Reilly launched a series of investigations, including one into the promotion of Jean-Claude Junker's chief of staff Martin Selmayr to secretary general of the commission.
A report found that the commission had breached its own guidelines in making the appointment.