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CAR Opposition Candidates Claim Election Fraud

Candidates who ran against the Central African Republic's coup leader turned interim president in elections Sunday are crying foul. Fraud allegations are threatening to undermine a process many hoped would end years of instability and political corruption.

A spokesman for presidential candidate, Abel Goumba, stopped short of accusing Central African President Francois Bozize of fixing the election.

But Marcel Djimasse says the conditions in last Sunday's polling were not transparent, and neither is the process of announcing results. A group of opposition candidates has released a declaration questioning preliminary vote tallies from the country's electoral commission.

Mr. Goumba, who was the Central African Republic's vice president until Tuesday, was fired by President Bozize after voicing his support for the declaration.

Mr. Djimasse says that under present circumstances, there is no way the opposition candidates can accept the results.

Opposition supporters have claimed that ballot boxes were stolen or replaced. They also say that parallel vote counting offices have been set up.

But Mr. Djimasse says the main problem is that opposition representatives stationed at polling places did not sign final vote tallies as had been agreed should be done. He says there is now no way they can gage the election's validity or contest the results.

A campaign manager for Mr. Bozize, Ambroise Zawa rejects the opposition claims.

He says there is a virus of dishonesty in the Central African Republic, and he says some people do not have the courage to accept that they have been beaten.

Initial reports by election observers indicated that, despite some isolated incidents, voting had been open and fair.

Many Central Africans had hoped that the election, which was held almost exactly two years after General Bozize rose to power in a coup, would put an end to years of civil war and political instability.

A campaign organizer for former Prime Minister Jean-Paul Ngoupande, Faustin Bambou, says the success of the election is essential to the future.

"Our country has had to cross very, very difficult periods with fight, struggling, with militaries,” he said. “It has been very painful for our population. So this election is the last great luck for our country. If this election passes very well, it will be a very great luck for our country."

Opposition groups are holding meetings in the capital Bangui, saying their militants are on alert.

President Bozize went up against 10 candidates in the first round of the election. A run-off is planned if no single candidate wins a majority. Final results from Sunday's poll are not expected until late this month.