BAMAKO (Reuters) - Election officials in Mali have delayed by another day the release of complete results from Sunday's presidential election, raising tensions after a high-stakes vote intended to usher in a fresh start for the West African nation.
On Tuesday, the ministry organising the polls put former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in first place and on course for an outright first-round victory based on partial results. But his rivals rejected the projections saying a second round was unavoidable.
The vote is meant to draw a line under a tumultuous 18 months that saw soldiers topple the president before separatist- and al Qaeda-linked rebels seized and occupied the north of the country.
French forces led a United Nations-backed offensive launched in January that dispersed the Islamists.
Final results had been expected on Wednesday and must be given by Friday according to Malian law.
"We have not finished. There is still one more region (to count). The deadline is tomorrow. We're still within the deadline," Gamer Dicko, a spokesman at the Interior Ministry told Reuters on Thursday.
A spokesman for Keita said the delay had not dented the ex-prime minister's confidence that he would be declared the winner.
"We don't have any concerns. The only question is whether we win in one round or two...According to our figures we have won in one round," Mahamadou Camara said.
If the vote goes to a second round, Keita will likely face ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse, who is in second place and is expected to form an alliance with two of the other principal candidates, Dramane Dembele and Modibo Sidibe.
While Sunday's voting was peaceful and has been praised by observer missions, the three men came together on Monday to complain about the process.
Cisse has called for the resignation of the minister of territorial administration, who announced Tuesday's partial results, accusing him of preparing public opinion for an eventual illegitimate win by Keita.
"There was fraud," he said, without offering specific cases. "The results that I have show that I will be going through to the second round."
Cisse has said he will challenge the results if Keita is announced the winner in one round.
(Reporting David Lewis and Tiemoko Diallo; Editing by Joe Bavier and Michael Roddy)