No clear leader yet in Mauritius election count

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - A clear leader has yet to emerge from a parliamentary election in Mauritius as ballots were being counted on Thursday, election officials said.

Results of the race, which could lead to more powers being granted to the president if a coalition led by the ruling Labour Party wins, are expected later on Thursday.

But not enough votes had been counted so far following Wednesday's election to indicate if either of the two main coalitions had a lead.

A total of 726 candidates competed for 62 seats in the Indian Ocean island's National Assembly. Eight more seats will be allocated by the electoral commission to ensure adequate representation. The commission said 74 percent of the 936,975 registered voters took part in the election.

The Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, and its ally the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) want power divided between the president, who now has a largely ceremonial role, and the premier, whose rule now holds sway.

They say the change, requiring a three-quarters majority in parliament, will make the nation of 1.3 million people more democratic because power will not be concentrated in one person.

A rival coalition of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD) argues the changes could unsettle the nation, one of Africa's most stable democracies since gaining independence from Britain in 1968.

Under the proposed constitutional changes, current premier Ramgoolam, whose father led Mauritius to independence, would become president with expanded powers, while Paul Bérenger, the leader of the MMM, would be prime minister.

An opinion poll conducted by La Sentinelle media group on Oct. 15-31 suggested the Labour Party-MMM coalition would win.

Mauritius has a growing financial centre and also relies on its tourism, textiles and sugar industries.

(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Angus MacSwan)