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Central African Republic votes
Voters complain of long delays in the country's presidential and legislative elections.
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2011 15:04 GMT

At least 1.8 million of the country's 4.8 million people are registered to vote in the country's elections [AFP]

Polls have opened in the Central African Republic where voters are casting ballots in an election to determine whether incumbent president Francois Bozize will stay in power.

Bozize, who seized control in 2003 and consolidated his position with an election victory in 2005, is expected to win Sunday's vote.

His challengers include Ange-Felix Patasse, an ex-president ousted by Bozize who returned from years in exile to run as an independent candidate, along with Martin Ziguele, a former prime minister of Patasse's.

If no candidate wins a majority, a run-off between the two finishers is scheduled for March 20.

A total of 868 politicians are also running in legislative elections with 105 seats in the country's parliament up for grabs.

Voting delays

About 1.8 million of the nation's 4.8 million people are registered to vote at about 4,500 polling stations.

Some voters across the country complained of long delays because voting materials had not arrived on time.

Issac Gotoua, a resident of the capital Bangui, said: "Seven polling stations in my district have not been supplied with voting equipment so I have not been able to vote so far - you think that's normal?"

Results are due to be announced within eight days, however, few believe the vote will bring much change to the desperately poor nation that has suffered five coups and myriad army mutinies since independence 50 years ago.

The polls, originally due last April, have been delayed three times due to a lack of funds and trouble disarming rebels who have signed peace deals but still roam the country’s northwest and the northeast.

The Central African Republic is among the poorest of countries in Africa, ranking 159 of 169 nations on the UN's 2010 Human Development Index, which measures general well-being.

The former French colony is rich in diamonds, uranium and gold, but instability and isolation, with roads often crumbling not far outside the capital, have discouraged investment.

Source:
Agencies
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