- François Bozizé, the putschist general in power in the Central African Republic, obtained 64.23 percent of the votes in second round of the presidential elections, according to an official announcement. While the opposition earlier claimed the poll was fraudulent, the UN Secretary-General today congratulated Mr Bozizé on the democratic transition.
The Joint Independent Electoral Commission (CEMI) of the Central African Republic today in the Bangui parliament announced the outcome of the second round of presidential and legislative balloting. As widely expected, the current ruler, General Bozizé, was declared the winner of the presidential poll.
According to the final and official results from CEMI, Mr Bozizé obtained 64.23 percent of the votes from the second poll round. His only rival in that round, ex-Prime Minister Martin Ziguélé, had achieved a total of 35.77 percent of the votes, the chairman of CEMI announced in parliament.
Both candidates thus had made considerable advances from the first poll round organised on 15 March, where none had gained more than 50 percent. After the first round, CEMI announced that General Bozizé had gathered about 43 percent of the votes, with 23 percent going to Mr Ziguélé. Ex-military ruler André Kolingba officially came third, with about 16 percent of the votes.
Several opposition groups in the Central African Republic however have denounced the official poll results and claimed that Mr Bozizé was rigging the election in his favour. In particular Mr Kolingba has claimed that the poll was rigged altogether and his followers claim to have been threatened by militants armed by General Bozizé's party.
After the first poll round, also CEMI chairman Jean Willybiro-Sako acknowledged that there had been "some strange cases" at several polling stations, including more votes than registered voters. Mr Willybiro-Sako further had to admit that around 10 percent of the votes had been scrapped.
There was however no reason for the population to shout "fraud" due to any extraordinary event, Mr Willybiro-Sako emphasised. The overall results were reflecting the popular decision. This view has also been sustained by international election observers, so far characterising the elections as generally democratic.
No serious domestic or international objections to Mr Bozizé's legitimacy as the Central African Republic's President are therefore expected to surface. General Bozizé - who came to power in a coup in March 2003 - thus finally seems to have achieved the international recognition of his presidency that he has sought for two years.
The strongman and former army chief of staff - who had been fired by unpopular but democratically elected President Angé-Felix Patassé - had staged various coup attempts before he succeeded ousting Mr Patassé. Mr Bozizé had led his rebel movement into Bangui, after devastating northern parts of the country and attacking government troops and UN peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, however, Mr Bozizé has achieved repairing his negative image step by step by promising a democratic transition process, respecting basic human rights and seeking to establish political and economic stability in the Central African Republic. This, the General has achieved to a greater degree than his democratically elected predecessor. Foreign state leaders and the UN therefore discretely have supported his regime.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan therefore today was among the first congratulators on Mr Bozizé's victory, commending the people of that country "for participating actively in the electoral process." With Mr Bozizé's poll victory assured, the time had come to "bring to a successful and peaceful end the transitional process in the Central African Republic and the return to constitutional governance in the country," Mr Annan said.
Mr Annan further reaffirmed the readiness of the UN to continue to support the efforts of the people of the Central African Republic as a whole "as they embark on building a better future for their country based on peace, justice, respect of human rights and the rule of law," a statement by his spokesman added. He finally called on the opposition and other groups avoid further tensions and to "refer any electoral disputes to the competent authorities."
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