CAR chooses new parliament
Bangui - The Central African Republic voted Sunday in the second round of parliamentary elections expected to hand President Francois Bozize's party a large majority after an opposition boycott.
The opposition said voters had heeded the boycott, called to protest against the results of the first round and a presidential vote on January 23, because few were turning up at the polling stations.
"We called on our activists to boycott these polls," said opposition leader Martin Ziguele, a former prime minister who finished third in last month's presidential election which Bozize took with 64% of the vote.
"The call was heeded and there are few voters in most polling stations," he said.
"We know that the government is still capable of manipulation to give us voter turnouts which do not correspond to reality," he added.
Bozize's Kwa Na Kwa party took 26 seats in the first round of the parliamentary vote, with the opposition only managing one. The remaining eight went to independents, five of whom are close to the president.
Bozize was voted in for a second five-year term on the same day, with voter turnout put at 54%.
The opposition has condemned both elections as fraudulent and demanded the results be cancelled.
Counting of votes
For Sunday's second round polling stations in the capital Bangui opened about an hour later than the scheduled 06:00, with voting officials saying material had arrived late.
Polls closed after 10 hours of voting and officials said the election had proceeded smoothly.
"In the interior of the country and in the capital, the counting of votes has begun," the Independent Election Commission's general rapporteur, Rigobert Vondo, told AFP.
"No serious incident has yet been reported," he added.
Vondo said authorities were "satisfied" with the level of participation in the election, but in the capital at least there was no sign of the long lines at polling stations that marked the January vote.
Results are to be released within eight days of voting.
There were 3 800 voting stations at which people in the landlocked and desperately poor country could choose the parliamentarians who were not elected in the first round on January 23.
The Central African Republic is notoriously unstable, with large areas subject to rebel movements and uprisings.
The elections were meant to put the seal on a long peace process involving government, rebels and political opposition groups.
One voter, Freddy Mouakaouada, said he was voting on Sunday so that his parliamentary representative could protect his interests.
"It is in the interests of citizens to choose their representatives in the National Assembly, it is these representatives who are going to vote in good laws for the well-being of citizens," he said.
"If citizens do not vote, they should expect that their rights will not be defended and too bad for them," he said.
"The opposition call for a boycott of the second round of the legislatives had no effect on the vote," government spokesperson Fiedle Ngouandjika said.
"Voting took place normally, with no serious incident and that is a source of great satisfaction."
He said that turnout "could not be the same", since on the last occasion voters were also electing their president.