CAR to hold runoff parliamentary elections in March

President Touadera’s decree says first round of voting will also take place in constituencies where December poll was disrupted.

President Touadera said in a decree on Saturday that the second round was set for March 14 [File: Evelyn Kahungu/Al Jazeera]

The Central African Republic (CAR) will hold next month a second round of voting for legislative elections in some constituencies, as well as a first round where a December ballot was disrupted amid a fresh wave of unrest in the violence-hit country.

President Faustin Archange Touadera said in a decree on Saturday the second round will take place on March 14. The regions where the first round was disrupted by rebel violence and other factors will also vote on the same date.

The campaign for the first round will open on February 27 and for the second round on March 6.

Barely a third of the potential ballots were cast on the December 27 first round – and in the presidential election held on the same day – because of voter intimidation in areas controlled by rebel groups.

The Constitutional Court cancelled the first-round results in 13 out of 140 voting districts because of irregularities. There was no polling in about 50 others because of the security situation.

Only 22 deputies out of 140 won their seats outright in the first round, of whom just four are from Touadera’s party.

However, the court confirmed last month that Touadera had won a second mandate in the first round of the presidential polls, with 53.16 percent of the vote. The opposition had urged the court to order a rerun of the voting, saying insecurity and alleged irregularities had marred the process.

On February 2, a coalition of opposition parties, COD-2020, announced they were withdrawing from the upcoming elections, claiming massive fraud in the first round.

A day later, the URCA – one of the main parties in that alliance – announced it would contest the second round parliamentary vote. URCA is led by Anicet Georges Dologuele, who came second in the presidential election with 21.69 percent of the vote.

One of the world’s poorest countries, the CAR has struggled with instability since 2013, when its then-President Francois Bozize was overthrown. The government in the capital, Bangui, currently controls about a third of the territory.

On December 19, an alliance of six armed groups – calling itself the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – launched an offensive on Bangui, cutting off a key highway that left more than 1,500 trucks stranded on the border with neighbouring Cameroon.

Russian paramilitaries and Rwandan troops have since helped government forces recapture a series of towns held until recently by CPC fighters.

Touadera’s decree came days after the rebels’ 50-day blockade of Bangui was broken with the arrival of the first aid convoy.

On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said violence has forced more than 180,000 people to flee their homes in recent months, causing a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without access to food or healthcare, ICRC President Peter Maurer said in a statement following a visit to the CAR.

“We are worried that malnutrition will become even more severe, because many families can no longer buy enough food, or because what they can buy is not sufficiently nutritious,” Maurer said.

In one town in the country’s northeast, Kaga-Bandoro, the ICRC supported some 720 victims of sexual violence and held 1,400 psychological consultations last year.

“These figures hint at a terrifying level of violence, but they still do not reflect the scale of need,” Maurer added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies