Break with the past, stay in the past—court cancels Central Africa vote; in neighbouring Congo Nguesso confirms third term run

Election season in Central Africa--CAR annuls parliamentary vote as Congo Republic brings forward presidential election to March.

THE Central African Republic’s top court on Monday annulled last month’s first-round legislative vote over “irregularities”, but said the second round of the presidential elections could go ahead.

This came as the president of neighbouring Republic of Congo confirmed that he will seek a third term in office during presidential elections in March, in line with recent changes to the country’s constitution.

Read: Rogue view: Africa’s ‘pole of inaccessibility’ and how it contributes to the central region’s third term disease

CAR voters had cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections on December 30 in an election seen as vital for restoring stability after years of religious violence.

Although there was a high turnout and the poll passed off peacefully, the legislative vote was flawed by “numerous irregularities” involving the candidates, Constitutional Court president Zacharie Ndoumba said Monday.

By law, new elections must be held within 60 days, although that is unlikely given the poor state of the country’s infrastructure.

A second round of the presidential vote, scheduled for January 31, can go ahead with two former premiers—Anicet Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera—going head-to-head, the court said.

“The (legislative) elections of December 30, 2015 are cancelled and will be rescheduled…. due to many irregularities and the implication of candidates in these irregularities,” Ndoumba told the court in the capital Bangui.

He said the court had received 414 complaints over electoral malpractice and said the transitional administration would remain in place until a new parliament was elected.

The legislative poll took place in 140 constituencies across the country, but electoral material and many ballot papers had not reached some of the more remote areas, officials admitted.

“In certain communities, people only voted in the presidential election because the ballots for the legislative election did not arrive in time,” electoral authority spokesman Julius Ngouade Baba said.

Although the second round of the presidential vote is scheduled to take place Sunday, it is likely to be delayed by at least a week, a source close to the electoral commission said, with a new date to be announced soon.

CAR has been riven by coups, rebellions, army mutinies and prolonged strikes since the country won its independence from France half a century ago.

Nguesso going strong

In nearby Congo, also a former French colony, president Denis Sassou Nguesso has served as head of state for nearly 32 years, and was on Monday named as the official candidate for the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT), which he founded in 1969.

“The PCT’s Central Committee confirms the candidacy of Denis Sassou Nguesso as its candidate for the presidential election of March 20, 2016,” said a statement issued after a meeting of the party’s leadership.

The announcement came three months after Congo adopted a new constitution which allowed Sassou Nguesso to extend his stay in office. 

The new constitution was adopted following a landslide ‘yes’ vote in a controversial October referendum that was denounced by the opposition as “a constitutional coup”. 

Before the changes, the constitution had stipulated a maximum age of 70 for presidential candidates and limit on the number of terms to two. At 72, Sassou Nguesso was over the age limit and had already served two consecutive seven-year terms. 

A presidential election had been scheduled for July this year but in December, the government said it would bring forward the date to March.
(Reporting by AFP)

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