CAR opposition backs poll date
Bangui - The leaders of two opposition parties in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday expressed support for President Francois Bozize's decision to hold general elections on January 23.
The Centrafrican Democratic Rally (RDC) founded by the late president Andre Kolingba "judges that the new date for elections set by presidential decree is reasonable," its deputy secretary-general Honore Nzessiwe told AFP.
"It (the RDC) believes that this delay will suffice for our country to organise elections and turn the page on transitory republican institutions," he added.
The RDC early this year pulled out of an opposition coalition, the Union of Active Forces of the Nation (UFVN), arguing that the movement was adopting a joint strategy to back former prime minister Martin Ziguele.
Former defence minister-turned-rebel Jean-Jacques Demafouth, who is now the deputy head of a national disarmament programme in the unstable country, told AFP that "the new date of the elections suits us."
"In five months, we can make progress in the disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion (DDR) programme for ex-combatants," he added, stating that in the west of the country, people now travel freely in the Ouham and Ouham Pende districts, and "we are convinced that this programme will be carried out without difficulties in other zones (...), notably the northeast."
Demafouth is one of the candidates who will be challenging Bozize at the polls. The head of state took power in a 2003 coup when he ousted Ange-Felix Patasse. Bozize was then elected for a five-year term in 2005.
When the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) postponed planned elections this year for a second time, the presidential and parliamentary mandates were extended by a constitutional law.
The CEI cited instability and insecurity as reasons for postponing the polls, but eventually came up with the date of October 24, which was rejected by Bozize.
Demafouth on Monday urged the CEI to ensure that all candidates went into the election "on an equal footing" and that none were "blocked" or "banned from holding a rally where they want".
The postponement of the election had been recommended by the committee of financial sponsors of the poll, consisting of the UN, the EU, France and the US.
These powers have since 2008 lent their support to politicians and former rebels in the CAR who have been engaged in a process of peace-making and reconciliation.
The main rebel groups have signed up to the disarmament process, but unrest periodically erupts in the volatile north of the country.