Country Report Central African Republic October 1998 Main report

Political scene: Elections have been postponed at CEMI's behest --

The government had been keen to hold the legislative election on August 16th and 30th, but in view of the delays in setting up the CEMI, this proved unrealistic. Moreover, opposition groups feared that President Patasse wanted an early vote because it would leave little time for proper checks on the validity of the voters' register or for campaigning. An early vote would have been particularly damaging for Mr Ngoupande, whose party has had little time to develop a public profile. On July 4th the CEMI announced that the first round of the legislative vote would be held on September 20th and the second round on October 11th, but it soon became clear that even these dates were impracticable, and on September 22nd the president announced that the first round of the election will be held on November 22nd and the second on December 13th. There were a number of reasons for the delay. By July large numbers of party and independent candidates still had to file nomination papers and provide their personal details for printing on ballot papers. However, even this process had to be halted, as the commission first had to carry out a nationwide tour to check provincial voting registers. The survey was originally scheduled to begin on July 6th, but the CEMI was unable to obtain enough vehicles from the government, and could not start the trip until the second half of August.

-- prompting complaints from Mr Ngoupande

The postponement of the vote appeared to have the support of the UN envoy, who publicly acknowledged the organisational problems encountered by the CEMI. But the delay stirred suspicions in the minds of some opposition leaders, who were clearly concerned that the authorities were being deliberately obstructive in failing to provide the commission with the necessary means to carry out its job properly and on time. In late July the CEMI projected the cost of the election at CFAfr2.3bn, instead of the original estimate of CFAfr1.8bn. Mr Ngoupande accused the government of conducting a co-ordinated policy of foot-dragging, saying that it lacked the political will to face a genuine electoral challenge.

© 1998 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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