On Sunday almost 2 million voters in the Central African Republic (CAR) went to the polls to elect the country’s president for the next four years. Sixteen candidates were running for presidency, including three women.
More than 1,500 candidates were running for 140 seats in the national assembly. Incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadera is considered the favourite in the presidential race.
The legitimate and peaceful nature of these elections is very important for this African country. This is the first voting since a peace deal was signed between the government and 14 rebel groups in February 2019, although fighting continues. This agreement is historic and was reached by Touadera.
The elections were held under a cloud of violence as the government was trying to hold off a rebel advance. Militias hostile to Touadera had stepped up attacks across the CAR since the constitutional court rejected several candidates, including former President Francois Bozize. His candidacy was rejected because he faces an arrest warrant and U.N. sanctions for allegedly ordering assassinations and torture while being president.
Most of the fighters attracted by Bozize were not CAR citizens, but mercenaries from Chad and Cameroon. They were drawn into this conflict solely for the purpose of destabilizing the country.
Most politicians and international actors have been critical of Bozize’s attempted rebellion. MINUSCA (the local UN office, which has over 12,800 uniformed peacekeepers in the CAR) released a communique in which it officially stated that Bozize had allied with armed groups to disrupt the peace and electoral process.
The rebels called for postponing the elections. But the Constitutional Court of the CAR did not satisfy this requirement. Touadera promised that by the time the elections took place, the situation in the country would be stable. “There is no institutional crisis. We must simply go on with the election,” he said. Indeed, on Sunday there was no significant unrest in the country.
Last week Russia sent military specialists to the CAR to prevent violence and establish peace in the country. “Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” in the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement, a CAR’s government spokesman said. Rwanda also provided assistance.
Through joint efforts of the contingents, it was possible to take control of most of the country. For the first time in the history of the CAR, such a large number of voters in such a territory were able to cast their votes.
The elections were attended by observers from international organizations and other countries, including Russia. They goal was to prevent provocations and rigging of results. Observers note that the elections were held legitimately and without significant violations.
Touadera’s main challenger is the former head of government, Anicet-Georges Dologuele, who is backed by Bozize. The election will go to a second round if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
However, there is no need to doubt Touader’s victory. He is supported by the majority of the country’s population. It owes much of its popularity to Russia, which trained the army and implemented many humanitarian projects.
An important factor in the upcoming victory of Touadera is also the fact that Bozize completely discredited himself in the eyes of the country’s citizens, because he tried to arrange bloodshed with the help of radicals. Therefore, even if he demands the cancellation of the voting results, few will support him.