The opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) has taken an early lead in Lesotho's fiercely fought general elections, winning the first eight constituencies that have been announced.
All the constituencies were in urban areas, the base of support for the ABC and its leader Tom Thabane.
The early returns on Sunday showed a close contest, however, with ABC taking a majority in only one district, indicating that Lesotho could be headed toward its first coalition government.
"Currently most of the urban areas have been counted, which is a good indicator," Maliako Ralejoe, an official with the Independent Electoral Commission, told the AFP news agency.
"We have had challenges with the rural areas as some areas are still counting, but Maseru is complete. We estimate that Tuesday we will be able to announce the final verdict," she said.
Lesotho voted on Saturday in a close three-way race, following a series of splits in the ruling party.
Vote counting began immediately after polls closed, but tallying the results from remote mountain communities poses a logistical challenge in this largely rural nation.
Pakalitha Mosisili, the prime minister since 1998, is asking voters to give him another term in office at the helm of his new Democratic Congress.
His main rival is Mothejoa Metsing, the new leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, the party that Mosisili abandoned in February.
Both parties have most of their support in rural Lesotho, where three-quarters of Lesotho citizens live.
Thabane is hoping to benefit from the split in the ruling party and could emerge as a kingmaker if no party takes a majority.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|