JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian officials raced against time on Friday to finish counting votes from last month's legislative polls before a midnight deadline, as fears grew the announcement of the results may have to be delayed.
The final results are expected to confirm earlier unofficial tallies showing the main opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) won the biggest share of the vote, but with less support than expected.
The April 9 elections set the stage for presidential polls in July, and the PDI-P's candidate, popular Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, is the favourite to become the next leader of the world's third-biggest democracy.
However, concerns were mounting on Friday that officials might not finish the mammoth task of counting votes from across the world's biggest archipelago nation before the deadline, which is set down in law.
If that becomes a realistic prospect as midnight approaches, officials and party members said they might have to apply to the president for an extension, which requires a special government order.
"We hope we can finish the process tonight but of course if we can't, the (election) commission will have to file a request for the government regulation," said Mr Ahmad Yani, who was representing the United Development Party during the vote-count.
Officials had still not finished counting votes from seven of 33 provinces by mid-day Friday, while witnesses from the 12 competing parties were reporting numerous alleged violations, including suspected vote-buying and falsifying results.
An election commission spokesman said that results in some provinces were not ready due to disputes, while in others the process had simply taken longer than expected.
However a senior commission official, Mr Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah, said he was "optimistic" the counting would be finished in time.
"There are still some issues to be resolved with seven provinces, but we are getting through them," he told AFP.
Unofficial tallies released on election day, which have accurately predicted poll results in the past, showed the PDI-P with around 19 per cent of the vote, in the lead but with a lower share of the vote than expected.
This means the party will likely have to form a larger than expected coalition to put forward a presidential candidate and ensure enough support at July 9's election.
A party needs to win 25 per cent of the national vote or 20 per cent of seats in the lower house of parliament to nominate a presidential candidate.
Intense coalition-building negotiations have been going on in recent weeks, and the PDI-P has already won backing from the small NasDem party.
The final results are also expected to confirm that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party lost around half its support following a string of corruption scandals.