Antananarivo - Madagascans waited impatiently on Saturday for election results which were beginning to trickle in a day after the island's first post-coup presidential polls to restore democracy.
By early afternoon, only 431 out of 20 001 polling stations had reported results following Friday's vote to choose a successor to Andry Rajoelina's transitional presidency after he seized power in 2009.
The results reported represented under two percent of the country's 7.8 million registered voters, and as the delays dragged on, residents began voicing concerns over vote-rigging.
“It is worrying, this slowness,” said Mialy Rakatoarizafy, a jeweller in the capital Antananarivo.
“People are eager to know! The more time they take, the greater the risk of fraud. I'm a bit afraid,” she said.
Speedy result publication would restore confidence between candidates, said Emile Rarivo.
“If you look at the technology that exists today, they should be able to speed up the process of reporting,” said Rarivo.
“Everyone wants peace,” he said, while pointing to the possibility of rigging.
The Indian Ocean island has been in a political deadlock for four years after Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana in an army-backed coup.
The two leading candidates according to early results were associated with Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, who are both barred from running.
Robinson Jean Louis, the candidate for now-exiled Ravalomanana, is leading with 26.03 percent. He has called on his supporters to assemble at the ruins of a supermarket that once belonged to Ravalomanana, but was destroyed in his ouster four years ago.
Jean Louis has also said he might appoint the ex-leader or his wife Lalao Ravalomanana prime minister if elected.
Meanwhile Rajoelina's former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina is in second place with 15.33 percent of votes. Though not personally endorsed by the strongman, Rajaonarimampianina enjoyed the support of Rajoelina's party.
Election officials were confident that the publishing of results would speed up later.
“Results will only really start arriving later in the day,” said election commission (Cenit) spokeswoman Valerie Andrianavalona.
“Checking the results takes time,” she told AFP, adding that the final tally would probably only be available in a week.
A Western election observer said the delay was not abnormal.
“At the moment I'm not worried. It's to be expected that there's nothing on the day after the polls,” he said.
“If it takes longer than a week, then yes, I'd be concerned.”
But political scientist Sahondra Rabenarivo said at this rate, final results would only be available in 83 days.
“I understand that they need to verify the votes, but first they need to announce preliminary results,” she said.
“And when they say 'so many stations have reported results', they don't say which ones, and we'd like to see results by polling stations.”
International observers said the polls went well, despite isolated incidents of violence, with fewer organisational problems than expected.
Between 50 and 60 percent of registered voters cast their ballot, according to the Cenit.
Analysts and observers told AFP that none of the 33 candidates would win an outright majority, and that a second round of voting is likely to be held with legislative polls on December 20.
A new democratic government is crucial for the island to obtain foreign aid that had been frozen after the coup. - Sapa-AFP