Voters in Central African Republic headed to the ballot on Sunday to elect their future president for the next five years during a presidential runoff poll that was generally termed as peaceful.
The voters were choosing between two former prime ministers, Anicet-Georges Dologuele who won the first round polls on Dec. 30, 2015 with about 24 percent, and Faustin-Archange Touadera who came second with slightly over 19 percent.
Dologuele, 58, is an economist who served as prime minister during the regime of ex-president Ange-Felix Patasse (1999-2001) and also served as president of the Development Bank for Central African States.
His rival, Touadera, also aged 58, was a former vice-chancellor of Bangui University who served as prime minister during the regime of Francois Bozize between 2008 and 2013.
Voting in some polling stations in Bangui began after the legally prescribed time of 6:00 a.m. due to what was termed as technical challenges, but no violence was reported.
Central African Republic is trying to turn the page after three years of unprecedented violence since the March 2013 overthrow of Bozize by Michel Djotodia, leader of ex-rebel group, Seleka.
Out of a population of about 5 million, over 1.9 million have been registered on the electoral lists of the National Elections Authority (ANE).
By mid-day, no major incident had been noted, despite the two opposing camps accusing each other of plans to rig the elections.
Touadera, who surpassed expectations of political observers to emerge second in the first round of the presidential poll, voted at around 10 a.m. at polling center No. 7 at the Barthelemy Boganda high school in Bangui’s first district.
“I have just voted. I believe the whole process is peaceful and I have not received any information to the contrary,” Touadera told Xinhua, adding that he had observed his fellow citizens exercising their civic duty peacefully.
“My message to all my fellow citizens is that they should go and vote like we have done,” he concluded.
Dologuele, whom the pollsters have termed as the favourite, voted an hour later at the Hotel de Ville polling station in Bangui, accompanied by his wife.
“I expected a large turn out as it happened in the first round. This is because when I came to vote during the first round, there was a long queue. Today there is no queue at all,” he regretted.
On Dec. 30, 2015, the turnout was 62.6 percent, but trends observed at polling stations on Sunday showed a much lower turnout.
However, Dologuele, the leader of Union for Renewal of Central African Republic, said there was a huge turnout in the first round because “the elections were held on a week day.”
“Today, it is Sunday and most Central African Republic’s people are very prayerful. I believe between 11 a.m. and midday, there will be crowds,” he affirmed.
Just like in the last two electoral contests, starting with the constitutional referendum of Dec. 13, 2015 and the first round of the presidential elections on Dec. 30, the UN peacekeepers under the UN Integrated Multidimensional Mission for Stabilization of Central African Republic (MINUSCA) provided security.
BETTER ORGANIZED SECOND ROUND
The head of African Union electoral observer mission, former Senegalese Prime Minister Souleymane Ndiaye hailed the better organization observed during the second round of the presidential elections.
“In most polling stations I visited, the voting materials were distributed on time. The voting process began at 6 a.m. because of the availability of materials,” he said.
“It also appears the election clerks were well trained, because in the first round, we had complaints of some clerks who could not read or write,” he added.
“Until now, there is nothing abnormal. So far everything is going on well,” he told Xinhua.
The same position was taken by ANE president Marie Madeleine N’Kouet Hoornaert who noted that “the electoral commission had organized itself better in the second round by addressing concerns raised by candidates and the Constitutional Court during the first round.” Enditem