BANGUI (Reuters) -A group of influential opposition politicians in Central African Republic has called for an annulment of last Sunday’s election, saying a third of voters were unable to cast ballots because of insecurity.
Voting took place amid an offensive by armed groups in rural areas long beyond the reach of government control in the sparsely populated country of 4.7 million people.
In the build-up, the government relied on United Nations’ peacekeepers to deliver election materials to the provinces by plane because heavy rains and rebel checkpoints made roads unpassable.
Results are expected to trickle in from Wednesday. But an opposition coalition that includes five presidential candidates and former President Francois Bozize, says the vote should be repeated.
Insecurity halted voting in 2,115 polling stations, silencing over 621,000 voters, or about a third of the electorate, it said in a statement. In some polling stations, voting started late, counting was delayed or the number of votes surpassed the number of registered voters, it said.
It did not provide details on which polling stations were closed or proof to back up the assertions.
The electoral commission said on Tuesday that around 800 of a total 5,408 polling stations did not open because of insecurity.
“Given that the elections … were not an expression of the will of the Central African people,” the coalition demanded the “outright cancellation and repeat of elections”.
The country, which has substantial diamond and gold resources, has struggled to stabilise due to waves of militia violence since 2013 that have killed thousands and forced more than a million from their homes.
Campaigning was marred by threats from armed groups after several candidates, including Bozize, were barred from running.
Security forces, helped by more than 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers, and reinforcement from Russia and Rwanda, managed to fend off attacks in the capital.
But attacks occurred in more rural areas.
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said in a statement on Wednesday that one of its staff was killed in an attack in the central town of Grimari on Monday in which “several” people died.
The staff member, who was not identified, was badly wounded in a shooting on a public bus, it said. The person later died of their injuries.
The incident is “another clear illustration of the human toll of recurring violence in CAR,” said MSF’s deputy head of mission Marcella Kraay.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Gregorio)