Central African Republic looks set for a run-off vote to elect a new president to try to end a cycle of Muslim-Christian violence after former prime minister Anicet Georges Dologuele topped the poll but fell short of a majority.
Dologuele won 23.78 percent of votes, followed by another former prime minister, Faustin Archange Touadera, with 19.42 percent, National Election Authority (ANE) president, Marie-Madeleine Nkouet, said on Thursday, quoting provisional results.
In the absence of an absolute majority, the constitutional court is set to announce a second round run-off. The provisional date for this is Jan. 31.
Thirty contenders were vying to lead the former French colony where a three-year sectarian conflict has killed thousands of people and driven a million others from their homes despite efforts by U.N. and French peacekeepers to restore order.
Violence intensified when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in early 2013, prompting reprisals from anti-balaka militias drawn from the Christian majority.
Twenty of the candidates had previously voiced objections to the vote and urged for counting to halt but most of them have since changed their position.