West African election observers have given their approval to Benin's presidential election.

Observers commended the process Monday, contradicting remarks by outgoing President Mathieu Kerekou, who denounced Sunday's polls as not transparent, after claims of vote rigging.

Voting centers in many parts of Benin stayed open late to compensate for delayed openings because of a lack of basic materials. Polling coordinator Francis Glieger said the problems were minor, and on the whole, said he was impressed with Sunday's vote.

Results are expected to be announced by Wednesday. If none of the 26 candidates wins an outright majority, a runoff election will take place in two weeks.

Among the front-runners in Sunday's poll were former Prime Minister Adrien Houngbedji, former National Assembly President Bruno Amoussou and Yayi Boni, former head of the West African Development Bank.

Mr. Kerekou first came to power in a military coup in 1972 and led the country to its first democratic elections in 1991, which he lost. He returned to office after winning a 1996 vote.