Central African Republic's long-awaited presidential election is now headed to a runoff round later this month between two former prime ministers, election officials announced Thursday.
No candidate received more than 50 percent during the first round held late last month, according to final provisional results released by the National Election Authority. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 31, authorities said.
Anicet Georges Dologuele led the crowded field with 23.8 percent of the vote. The other candidate advancing is Faustin Archange Touadera, who had 19.4 percent.
Thursday's results now must be certified by the transitional government's constitutional court. Other candidates have said they plan to lodge complaints about the first round, a move that can only take place once final results have been handed to the court under the country's electoral code.
Central African Republic is holding the election to replace a transitional government that came to power in 2014 after a rebel leader stepped aside less than a year after his forces overthrew the government.
Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in the past several years has caused nearly 1 million people to flee their homes, and there have been fears that violence could intensify during the election period.
The front-runner in the first round, Dologuele is a 58-year-old economist who spent more than a decade outside the country before returning to the political scene in 2013. He served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001 under the government of President Ange-Felix Patasse, who was deposed in a 2003 coup by Francois Bozize, who then remained in power until 2013 when the rebel forces overthrew him.
Toudera, who is also 58, served as prime minister under Bozize's government from 2008 until early 2013. He holds a doctorate in mathematics and served as vice chancellor at the University of Bangui before becoming prime minister.