Date set for Central African Republic polls

2015-11-10 08:44
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Bangui - The strife-torn Central African Republic is to hold presidential and legislative elections on December 27, the National Elections Authority announced on national radio on Monday.

The vote will be preceded by a referendum on December 13 on a proposed new constitution that would limit future presidents to two five-year terms in office.

It would be followed by a second round of elections if necessary on January 31 2016. The dates must still be confirmed by a presidential decree.

The international community, led by France, has pressed the authorities to organise a constitutional referendum and elections this year in an attempt to formally end a tumultuous two-year period in the country.

But new outbreaks of violence in the capital of Bangui led to the cancellation of polls scheduled for October 18.

One of the poorest and most unstable countries in Africa, the landlocked former French colony plunged into chaos after president Francois Bozize, a Christian, was ousted in a coup in March 2013.

New clashes

The mainly Muslim Seleka rebels behind the coup went on a bloody rampage that triggered the emergence of equally dangerous anti-balaka (anti-machete) militias in mostly Christian communities.

Parliament appointed Catherine Samba-Panza as the country's transitional president in January 2014 until elections can be held.

The latest announcement came as new clashes erupted in Bangui between Muslims and members of a largely Christian militia. A police source said one person was killed by gunfire and several houses torched.

Earlier Monday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country is "in a position to hold the first round before the end of the year and the second round early next year",

"The fact that this [election] date is approaching is leading to major tensions..," he said, noting that some in the country do not want the polls.

Faced with this situation, Le Drian noted "concern but also determination to push the process through to the end", he said on the sidelines of an international forum in Dakar on peace and security in Africa.

But a number of politicians argue that the country is not ready for elections either financially or on security grounds.

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