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October 26, 2010

CAR Electoral Commission Begins Call For Candidates

by Drew Hinshaw

Central Africa Republic's Electoral Commission is asking all candidates for its long-delayed 2010 elections, to step up and register for an election that is now likely to take place in January of 2011.

The call for candidates in the Central African Republic signals new momentum for an election that has already been postponed six months, and was, at one point, supposed to be held last Sunday.

But in a new twist, the country's electoral commission isn't delaying this next step in its preparations for the vote - it's actually rushing ahead to register candidates earlier than foreseen, Electoral Commission spokesman Rigobert Vondo says.

Vondo says the Independent Electoral Commission wants all candidates for the presidential and legislative elections to know the registration period for candidates is taking place between now and November 8.

The election is expected to be contested by a key opposition coalition, the Collective of Forces for Change.

The election was originally scheduled for April of this year by President Francois Bozize.

But aid groups and opposition leaders say that early date offered little slack for a host of security, logistical, and funding dilemmas to be resolved. The first round is currently scheduled for January 23, 2011 with the second round, if needed , next April.

But voter enthusiasm for casting ballots appears to be lukewarm, according to coordinator Thierry Zeneth of the National Observatory for Elections and Democracy.

Zeneth says the voter registration drive suffered limited participation because it competed with a program to distribute mosquito nets.  He said there has been weak mobilization in many zones, like the capital, for the electoral process and he said there have been missing representatives for the political parties.

The country of arid semi-deserts and verdant Congolese rain forest stretches across some of the world's richest soil, packed with diamonds, and fertile plots for cotton and coffee.  Still, it remains one of the world's least developed - and least secure - nations, ranked the second to worst place on earth to do business by the World Bank.