BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Partial results for Central African Republic's national elections released Tuesday by the National Electoral Authority showed a high voter turnout and shifting fortunes for the front-runners.
Nearly 2 million voters registered for the nation's Dec. 30 election, held in hopes of ending years of sectarian violence. With votes from about 53 percent of the polling stations counted, participation at this stage was at about 72 percent, the authority said.
The partial results on Tuesday showed two former prime ministers virtually neck and neck.
Anicet Georges Dologuele was leading with nearly 179,700 votes, edging ahead of Faustin Archange Touadera, the prime minister until 2013, who had about 178,800 votes. Desire Zanga Bilal Kolingba, son of a former president, was third with about 76,100 votes.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent, the two front-runners will compete in a second round on Jan. 31.
On Monday nearly two-thirds of the 30 candidates demanded the vote count be halted, alleging fraud. However, the electoral commission and some other candidates noted that, according to the electoral code, any issues with the results can be lodged once final results have been handed to the constitutional court for validation.
The new leaders will replace a transitional government put in place in 2014. Conflict erupted in Central African Republic when a largely Muslim rebel alliance overthrew a Christian president in 2013. Once the rebel leader stepped down a horrific backlash from Christian militias followed. Thousands have died and nearly 1 million people — a fifth of the population — have been forced from their homes.