The Central African Republic (CAR) held presidential and legislative elections Sunday amid fears of unrest and controversy. Despite threats of violence by rebel groups, citizens turned out in significant numbers.
The incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, seeking a second term, is favored to win. Touadéra has advocated demobilizing armed groups and incentivizing international investment. He has accused his predecessor, François Bozizé, of conspiring with armed rebel groups in order to reduce voter turnout and lead a coup.
A total of 16 candidates, including three women, are running for president. If none of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a second election will take place on February 14.
The weeks leading up to the election have been marked by reports of gunfire in neighborhoods, skirmishes between rebel groups and security forces, and incidents against humanitarian workers, including the killing of three UN peacekeepers on Friday. More than 55,000 people have fled their homes due to an upsurge in violence.
Bozizé, a rebel leader and former army commander, seized power in CAR in 2003, and fled a decade later amid clashes with another rebel coalition. Facing an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, he returned to CAR in 2019 but is barred from standing for president by a Constitutional Court ruling.
If the election turnout proves to be low, Bozizé may try to use that as evidence that the elections were not legitimate. The results are expected to be tallied by January 4.
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