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Central African Candidates Back Incumbent


Francois Bozize
In the Central African Republic, two presidential candidates who ran against the incumbent, President Francois Bozize, in the first round poll have decided to support him in a run-off election. Mr. Bozize, a former army general, came to power in a coup.

Candidates Francois Massis and Jean-Paul Ngoupande signed a deal to support Mr. Bozize in the second round of elections set for May. They committed themselves to ensure the final victory for the former general who won more than 40 percent of the vote in the first round but fell short of the majority he needed to win the presidency outright.

Mr. Bozize now faces a run off with former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele, who received 23 percent in last month's polls.

Former army chief and president Andre Kolingba, who came in third, was in negotiations Thursday night to decide if he would also support Mr. Bozize.

But a spokesman for Mr. Kolingba's party, Gaston Mohouto, told VOA Friday that Mr. Kolingba had decided to remain neutral and not support either of the two candidates.

Mr. Mahouto said that despite its neutrality, the party would stand by whoever could bring peace to the country.

Supporters of Mr. Ziguele, the former prime minister, had hoped that opposition candidates who lost in the first round would back his candidacy.

Central Africa analyst Chris Melville says that most of the presidential hopefuls who lost the first round are probably trying to negotiate posts in Mr. Bozize's government, thinking his victory is assured. Mr. Melville believes that Mr. Kolingba will continue negotiations with both sides. "I'm not sure that his word is necessarily his bond in this instance, nor have I seen any evidence of a categorical denial on his part on who to endorse and who not to endorse," he said.

A former editor of West Africa magazine, Mr. Kay Whiteman said that a victory by Mr. Bozize is still not definite. "Basically, it does make it look as if Bozize is getting to be home and dry, but there are still a few days before elections and further negotiations, I suppose, could take plac," he said.

Mr. Whiteman said that if Mr. Bozize won the elections it would not be bad for the poverty stricken former French colony.

Mr. Bozize seized power from President Ange-Felix Patasse in 2003, who was excluded from running in this election. On taking power, he said that he would step down in favor of a democratically elected leader, but he later decided to run himself.

Many had hoped a fair vote would help put an end to years of political turbulence, and multiple coups in the mineral rich country.