Candidates Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele have received enough voter support to advance to a second round of the Central African Republic's presidential race, results released Saturday showed.
The counting of ballots was continuing in Bangui, the capital, but with roughly two-thirds of them tallied, Touadera, a former prime minister in the government of ousted president Francois Bozize, led with 31,000 votes. Dologuele, also a former prime minister, had garnered 28,000 votes.
As the preliminary results of the presidential and legislative races were announced, Touadera supporters such as campaign staffer Rosalie Emmanuel gathered outside the candidate's campaign headquarters.
“The first round is for Touadera," Emmanuel said. "It’s a KO [knockout]. Touadera is a man with integrity. He’s a unifier. The presidency is his, KO.”
Voting took place December 30. Ballots from Central Africans voting in Morocco and neighboring Congo-Brazzaville arrived at the electoral commission Saturday. Results from the provinces and the diaspora are pending.
The head of an African Union observer mission, Souleymane N'diaye, said the elections were peaceful and transparent and that observers did not notice any irregularities or any fraud in the sense that anyone opened ballot boxes and threw in extra ballots. There were, however, some logistical difficulties, N'diaye said.
Two-thirds of the polling stations the AU observers visited opened late. Some stations did not get any ballots for the legislative elections. Others ran out of ballots for the presidential election. Residents who had not received their voter cards were allowed to cast ballots if they could present a valid ID card or receipt for the voter card.
Elections had been postponed three times because of logistical difficulties.
The Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since March 2013, when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups overthrew President Francois Bozize. The rebel leader left power in 2014, and sectarian violence between the anti-balaka Christian militia and Muslim Seleka rebels has continued, killing thousands and displacing nearly 1 million people.
Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who has held office since May 2014, was barred from standing in this week's presidential election.
Some information for this report came from AP.