Leader won't postpone CAR poll

2010-03-17 07:59

Bangui - The president of Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday dismissed a call by political rivals to postpone elections set for April 25, saying any delay would be unconstitutional.

The dispute over timing may bode poorly for the vote, which will become the newest test for democracy in a continent notorious for coups and flawed polls.

"The opposition has always said loud and clear that we are afraid to hold elections. Now we've scheduled the elections and they have changed their tune," President Francois Bozize told reporters.

"April 25 has been fixed in accordance with the constitution, and there is no question of going back," he said.

Bozize has ruled the CAR - a nation rich in gold, diamonds and uranium but riven with instability and rebel factions - since seizing power in a 2003 coup.

Opposition parties who for years had been seeking a chance to run against Bozize argue that inadequate voter registration and a failed attempt to disarm rebels in the north had left the country unprepared for next month's poll.

"This delay would allow us to resolve numerous problems that hinder the smooth progress of the coming elections, and it is in Bozize's interests to listen to the voice of reason," said Ange Felix Patasse, former CAR president and opposition candidate.

Last month, a rebel group influential in the more populous north said it would not disarm under a government guns-for-money scheme.