The top court in the Central African Republic (CAR) has rejected the candidacy of former President Francois Bozize in the December 27 election.
Bozize planned to run against President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
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But the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that Bozize, 74, did not satisfy the “good morality” requirement for candidates because of an international warrant and United Nations sanctions against him for alleged assassinations, torture and other crimes.
Bozize, a former general who seized power in a 2003 coup and was overthrown in a 2013 rebellion, has denied the accusations against him. His lawyer said the opposition coalition led by Bozize would now meet to consider its options.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in Senegal, said the announcement comes as “no surprise” and paved the way for Touadera to win a second mandate.
“The judges of the Constitutional Court said [Bozize] is in breach of Article 103 of the constitution which says that in order to be candidate for president you need to have good morals and a clean criminal record,” Haque said.
“Judges believe he has neither.”
The court validated the candidacies of Touadera and 16 others, according to the order read by the court’s president.
CAR has experienced an acute humanitarian crisis since Bozize’s overthrow, which led to fighting between mainly Muslim and Christian armed groups.
Touadera, 63, was elected in February 2016 with two-thirds of the vote.
But he struggled to stem vicious inter-communal strife in a country where armed groups control two-thirds of the territory.
A peace accord signed in February 2019 between the government and 14 armed groups has led to a lower level of violence, although it remains entrenched.
Bozize returned to CAR late last year and announced his presidential candidacy in July, saying an experienced leader was required to restore peace.
Even though Touadera’s government sought the warrant for Bozize’s arrest, it has not sought to detain him since he returned to CAR.