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Central African Republic Vote One of Many in Region This Year

In Central African Republic, initial results are expected from the Sunday's election, which was aimed at ending two years of military rule. Campaign officials for interim President Francois Bozize say he has a strong lead in initial results and may win the 50 percent needed to avoid a second round of voting. Opposition leaders say it's too early to declare a winner, adding the vote would be fraudulent if Mr. Bozize won in the first round. Ten other candidates are competing for president, and hundreds of others ran for spots in the 105-seat parliament. Election officials say turnout was high Sunday, despite intense heat and long lines at some polling stations. Police said they arrested some two dozen people found with fake voting cards.

Chris Fomunyoh is a specialist in Western and Central Africa for the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC. Mr. Fomunyoh says he is not surprised that early results show Mr. Bozize in the lead, since the Central African leader probably has most of his support in the main cities. But he says the rural vote could go to other candidates.

The Central African Republic has had 11 attempted coups or mutinies in the past 10 years. Mr. Fomunyoh says much of that instability is due to poor governance. He says these elections -- as well as those coming up in Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – will show whether civil institutions in the West and Central African countries are strong enough to support free and fair elections.