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Security Tightens During Vote Counting in Central African Republic


Security forces in the Central African Republic have deployed around strategic areas following the start of vote counting from Sunday's post-conflict elections.

Police and military, as well as dozens of regional peacekeepers, guarded state radio, the presidency, and several polling stations in popular neighborhoods where hundreds of voters stayed into the night to watch the counting begin.

At one station, electoral officials angrily told youths to disperse and stop their threats of violence.

One young man who waited all day to vote, Celestin, said it was important to remain vigilant to avoid fraud. Others said there could be riots if results did not go their candidate's way.

Coup leader turned Interim-President Francois Bozize faced 10 challengers, including a popular former military ruler and two former prime ministers. If no candidate wins an outright majority, there will be a second round between the top two finishers.

Central Africans voted massively and many polling stations had to extend voting by several hours.

Some militants accused military officials of giving fake voting cards to foreigners to vote for Mr. Bozize, but overall the process seemed to have been free and fair, according to the head of the country's human rights league.

Nganatouwa Goungaye Wanfiyo says there were slight problems, including logistical delays, but that serious allegations of wrongdoing were not proven. About 300 observers monitored the vote, including about 30 from the international organization of French-speaking nations.

Toppled President Ange-Felix Patasse was barred from running, after Mr. Bozize brought charges of financial and blood crimes against him. Mr. Patasse says he is innocent and has threatened violence from his supporters if there is fraud.

Elections also took place for a new 105-seat parliament. The Central African Republic is resource rich, but has been mired in poverty due to years of civil strife, misrule and corruption.

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