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Central Africa court annuls vote over 'irregularities'

26 January 2016, 12:59

Bangui - The Central African Republic's top court on Monday annulled last month's first-round legislative vote over "irregularities", but said the second round of the presidential elections could go ahead.

Voters had cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections on December 30 in an election seen as vital for restoring stability after years of religious violence.

Although there was a high turnout and the poll passed off peacefully, the legislative vote was flawed by "numerous irregularities" involving the candidates, Constitutional Court president Zacharie Ndoumba said Monday.

By law, new elections must be held within 60 days, although that is unlikely given the poor state of the country's infrastructure.

A second round of the presidential vote, scheduled for January 31, can go ahead with two former premiers -- Anicet Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera -- going head-to-head, the court said.

"The (legislative) elections of December 30, 2015 are cancelled and will be rescheduled.... due to many irregularities and the implication of candidates in these irregularities," Ndoumba told the court in the capital Bangui.

He said the court had received 414 complaints over electoral malpractice and said the transitional administration would remain in place until a new parliament was elected.

The legislative poll took place in 140 constituencies across the country, but electoral material and many ballot papers had not reached some of the more remote areas, officials admitted.

"In certain communities, people only voted in the presidential election because the ballots for the legislative election did not arrive in time," electoral authority spokesman Julius Ngouade Baba said.

Although the second round of the presidential vote is scheduled to take place Sunday, it is likely to be delayed by at least a week, a source close to the electoral commission said, with a new date to be announced soon.

Dologuele, who served as premier from 1998-2001, won 23.74 percent of the vote in the first round on December 30, trailed by Touadera, who picked up 19.05 percent. He served as prime minister between 2008-2013.

The court said there were 1.3 million valid votes cast out of an electorate of nearly two million.

Dologuele, a 58-year-old former central banker, came to be known as "Mr Clean" after his attempts to bring transparency to murky public finances during his time as premier.

Touadera, also 58, is a former maths professor who served as prime minister under disgraced ousted president Francois Bozize. He was considered an outsider among the 30 candidates running for the top job.

CAR has been riven by coups, rebellions, army mutinies and prolonged strikes since the country won its independence from France half a century ago.

The latest sectarian unrest has set mainly Muslim rebels against vigilantes from the Christian majority, with civilians the main victims.

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