CAR votes to extend leader's term

2010-05-11 09:44

Bangui - The Central African Republic's parliament voted on Monday to extend the president's mandate until presidential and legislative elections can be held.

The vote allows President Francois Bozize to hold on to his post after his mandate expires on June 11 until elections are held.

A draft law submitted to the lawmakers, which changes the constitution, was adopted with 95 to six votes with one abstention.

The elections, initially scheduled for April 25, had been postponed until May 16 and then again until a date which is still to be set.

Bozize, who seized power in a coup in 2003 before winning elections two years later, announced the postponement of the May 16 polls after the elections commission warned it would be unable to organise them in time.

He is running for re-election, faced by the man he deposed in the 2003 coup, Ange-Felix Patasse, who returned from exile last year to run as an independent.

The Independent Electoral Commission has said it needs $6.8m to organise the polls.

Chairman Joseph Binguimale said more than one million euros alone was needed to print voting cards, "a sum we don't have".

Peace process

Decades of insurgency and unrest have hampered the country's economy and it remains one of the world's poorest.

Armed groups remain active, including the Lord's Resistance Army from neighbouring Uganda. The Kampala government has sent its troops into the country to track down the rebels.

Bozize won the last presidential election in 2005 with about two-thirds of the vote. He stood for president in the republic's first democratic elections in 1993, but lost to Patasse.

The landlocked country has been trying to complete a peace process after years of rebellions, coups and various kinds of violence by rebels, soldiers and brigands setting up roadblocks.

Calls for the postponement of the polls have come from within Bozize's own party, as well as from ex-rebel groups and the opposition.

There have been repeated questions about the method of compiling electoral rolls and guaranteeing security for the polls, at a time when a disarmament programme which began in 2009 is being blocked amid a dispute over the non-payment of bonuses to former fighters.