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Incumbent Leads in Central African Election

Francois Bozize who presides over the Central Africa Republic, casts his vote in Bangui
Preliminary results from the Central African Republic's presidential election place incumbent President and former coup leader Francois Bozize in the lead. Supporters of his opponent say they hope to make up ground in yet to be counted provincial districts.

The Central African Republic's Independent Joint Electoral Commission said late Tuesday that sitting President Francois Bozize was leading his opponent, former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele, in five of the capital Bangui's eight electoral districts.

Election officials say they have now counted the results of Sunday's second round of the presidential election from around a quarter of the country's more than 4,000 polling stations.

Despite her candidates poor early showing, a supporter of Mr. Ziguele, Blanche Dackobo, says she is not giving up hope just yet.

"My forward looking is that, in Bangui, Bozize is in the top really," she said. "But Ziguele, his position is better than the first ballot, even if Bozize is in the top. But we are waiting for the results of the provinces."

Most of the vote-counting has taken place in urban areas. Thirteen of the Central African Republic's 16 provinces have yet to post preliminary results.

Ex-General Bozize, who overthrew then President Ange-Felix Patasse in a 2003 coup, took 43 percent of votes in the first round of the election, failing to capture the majority needed to win outright. Mr. Ziguele finished second with more than 23 percent.

Africa analyst Richard Reeve says it would be difficult for Mr. Ziguele to defeat the sitting president.

"General Bozize really has the powers of incumbency in the Central African Republic," said Mr. Reeve. "Since he took power a couple of years ago, he has a reasonable degree of control over much of the country that his rival represents the old order that he overthrew in March 2003, and I would say has a fairly limited pull of attraction in perhaps north-central Central African Republic."

The second round of voting was largely free of the kinds of allegations of widespread fraud that marred the announcement of first round results.

Mr. Reeve says the fact that elections have taken place at all in Central African Republic is a positive step forward.

"The important thing is that, whoever wins the contest, Central African Republic will have a recognized and legitimate executive, and they can then have greater access to international borrowing and credit from donors, which they really need to get the country back on its feet," he added.

The Central African Republic has experienced a recurring cycle of military coups and political instability, since it gained independence from France in 1960. Mr. Bozize's seizure of power two years ago ended a civil war there.

Central Africans also voted Sunday on 87 vacant seats in the new national assembly.