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Strife-torn country plans presidential election

January 23, 2011 - AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The presidential vote is set for Jan 23, but another postponement is possible. Apr and May 2010 dates were cancelled because of strife, and nothing has changed. The government suggests it might go ahead with the vote if it can count on more international help. It's a forceful appeal as longstanding instability in CAR, a country the size of France, the former CAR colonial power, has discouraged major development of its gold, uranium and diamond deposits. A price has been put on the help by the international community -- a guarantee from President Francois Bozize of free and fair elections, with results that are acceptable to all.

The presidential vote is set for Jan 23, but another postponement is possible. Apr and May 2010 dates were cancelled because of strife, and nothing has changed. The government suggests it might go ahead with the vote if it can count on more international help. It's a forceful appeal as longstanding instability in CAR, a country the size of France, the former CAR colonial power, has discouraged major development of its gold, uranium and diamond deposits. A price has been put on the help by the international community--a guarantee from President Francois Bozize of free and fair elections, with results that are acceptable to all. The country's Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) affirmed that all that is necessary now is the release of money from the international community. "No funding, no elections," the body's president Joseph Binguimale warned earlier. According to the commitments that were made, the country's development partners are supposed to give 70 per cent of the election budget and the government of the Central African Republic is to give 30 per cent. Then, as now, the Lords Resistance Army and other militants control much of the country. Ahead of the May election date, an eight-party opposition group, the Union of the Nation's Pressure Groups (UFVN), demanded the disarmament of rebels before the vote and threatened a boycott. One of its leaders, Me Henri Pouzere, told Xinhua that they could not go to the polls with rebels holding much as 52 per cent of the national territory. "We must first begin by solving this problem. There must be some form of peace," he said. In June 2005, fighting between government and rebel forces in the north caused tens of thousands of people to flee across the border into Chad; and similar flights continued. The north was also subject to violence that spilled over the border from the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The opposition coalition brings together the Union of the Nation's Pressure Groups, the Movement for the Liberation of Central African People and the Central African Democratic Assembly, founded by the late president Angre Kolingba. The opposition parties and groups did not put forward candidates to compete against Bozize when the presidential election was set in for May. A likely candidate in January, if the poll is not postponed, is former president Ange-Félix Patassé. The landlocked country, which won its independence from France in 1960, has witnessed a series of coups and revolts, affecting a quarter of its 4 million population.On 15 Mar 2003, Bozize overthrew Patassé in a military coup. Bozize then won a five-year term in the last presidential election, in 2005. Under the country's new constitution, he is eligible for a second term. In December 2008, a political dialogue was held in Bangui to conclude peace accords under which the country will hold the election. There is no word of a new date for elections for the 105-seat unicameral National Assembly, postponed from March. With 42 seats in the Assembly, the National Convergence or KNK holds legislative power, with the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People, the party of deposed president Patassé,in a distant second with 11 seats. Past elections have produced close races, so an upset is possible. The United Nations and regional countries have maintained peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, which, though rich in minerals, is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world. (WRITTEN Oct/10)

Central African Republic Postpones Presidential Election to January 2011 (Xinhua 31 Jul 2010)

Central African Republic (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Date written/update: 2011-01-23