Government officials in Mali have said they expect to release final results Thursday following Sunday's highly-contested presidential election. Meanwhile, supporters of the apparent third-place candidate are complaining about what they say have been irregularities in the vote-counting.

With 70-percent of the votes counted by early Thursday, official results showed former transition leader Amadou Toumani Toure in the lead. Former cabinet minister Soumaila Cisse - the ruling party's candidate - was in second place, followed by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Results were originally expected on Tuesday, but were delayed when the government abruptly halted the tabulation of votes. Officials said the only technician who had the password to the computer that was tabulating the votes at a central location had been injured in a serious car accident.

The delay has caused some Malians to grow impatient and angry.

A coalition of supporters of the third place candidate - Ibrahim Boubacar Keita - accused the government of manipulating the votes to keep their candidate from winning. A spokesman for the coalition, known as "Espoir" 2002, said he rejects the government's explanation of why the tabulation of votes was halted. He said government officials have offered no proof that the technician was involved in a car accident.

Mr. Keita's supporters have scheduled a protest rally in the capital, Bamako, on Saturday.

According to Mali's electoral laws, final results are due within five days after the elections - which would be Friday.

For the past 10 years, the United States and other western nations have held Mali as a model for democracy in Africa. The polling on Sunday drew a turnout of about 40 percent and was carried out in an atmosphere of calm. Voters selected from a list of 24 candidates.

A second round will be held on May 12 if final results show none of the candidates winning a majority.

The winner will succeed President Alpha Oumar Konare, who is stepping down after serving the maximum-allowed two, five-year terms.