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Coup Leader Takes Early Lead in CAR Poll

Early results from Sunday's presidential election in the Central African Republic give coup leader turned Interim-President Francois Bozize the early lead. But militants from opposition parties say its impossible he won an outright first round majority and that a second round will be needed.

Partial results indicate Mr. Bozize did well in Bangui, as well as other southern and western regions. His campaign directors told VOA to them it is obvious he will win a first round victory with more than 50 percent of the vote.

But opposition militants say it is too early to tell. One militant for former ruler Andre Kolingba, Suzette, says it will mean fraud if Mr. Bozize wins outright. She says she is afraid the international community will help Mr. Bozize steal the election, after failing to condemn his March 2003 coup. She warns Bangui will burn if Mr. Bozize wins.

In most early results, Mr. Kolingba finished a strong second to Mr. Bozize.

In third place is former prime minister Martin Ziguele.

One of his supporters, Blanche Dakobo, says she is not worried because few results have come in from his northern stronghold.

"My impression is now we are waiting for the results from the rest of the country, the countryside. But in Bangui, maybe the result is favorable for Kolingba or Bozize, but I am sure that in the countryside, Martin Ziguele will win," she said. "I am not afraid because I know that I am going to win and my political party is for Martin Ziguele. Martin Ziguele looks like Martin Luther King and we are following him and now my dream is Martin Ziguele will be president of Central African Republic."

The eight other presidential candidates have fared poorly. Toppled President Ange-Felix Patasse, whose two elected terms were marred by corruption, civil strife, and militia activity, was barred from running.

Legislative elections for a new 105-member parliament also took place Sunday. Results remain unclear as more than 900 candidates took part in the election that also has a two-round system. No date has been set for the second round.

Sunday's voting was marked by high turnout as well as logistical delays . Opposition militants said there had been cheating involving fake voting cards, but international and national monitors said these allegations had not been proven.

The elections come amid reports of skirmishes in the north involving disgruntled Chadian mercenaries who say they have not been paid for helping Mr. Bozize. They also come amid warnings from relief officials of acute malnutrition in some remote areas.

The Central African Republic is one of the world's poorest countries with less than a third of children going to school and life expectancy below 40 years.

These are among a series of post-conflict elections in the troubled West and Central Africa region. Others are scheduled later this year in Guinea-Bissau, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Ivory Coast.