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EU Pledges $15 Million for Central African Republic Elections

The European Union representative to the Central African Republic said the commission has made available more than $15 million to fund the country's presidential and legislative elections. This is raising hope the polls will be held in January 2011, after a year of repeated delays.

EU ambassador to the Central African Republic, Guy Samzun, said Wednesday the European Union is prepared to more than double its original pledge of funding for the country's elections next year.

The European Union is the primary donor for the elections. Samzun said initially the European Union pledged about $5.5 million. After a request for the country's president and a review of a proposed electoral budget, he said the commission expected to raise its contribution to more than $13 million. With the contributions of individual EU member states, he said more than $15 million is now available.

The elections were initially planned for April, but were delayed because of budgetary issues and concerns over the security and organization of the vote. Opposition members and international donors supported that postponement.

President Francois Bozize accepted a January 23 election date. Mr. Bozize came to power in a 2003 coup and won the last presidential election in 2005, but his constitutional mandate expired in June of this year.

The opposition says it fears elections could be pushed back again.

Opposition leader Christian Guenebem said the elections must happen. He said they are frustrated with continued delays, and it is dangerous to continue to postpone and disrespect the constitution.

Observers say much remains to be done before the poll, including redividing the country into legislative constituencies and performing a nationwide census to ease distribution of voter cards.

The resource-rich Central African Republic is one of the world's least developed, and instability has plagued the country since independence in 1960. Rebel attacks on civilians in the country's north and east this year have contributed to repeated delays and fears of insecurity for the election.