Vote counting after a tight race between two former primeministers. Parliamentary elections had to be repeated due to irregularities in the first round. It is the most tight contest the country has seen.
This may not have been the perfect way the people of central African Republic (CAR) expcted to celebrate Valentine's day. But at least Georges Anicet Dologuele appreciated the timing of the presidential run-off, "this day is about celebrating love. I want to remind all Central Africans that their vote is an act of love to their country."
Indeed, it seemed to be a good coincidence. The second round of the presidential elections and the delayed parliamentary elections in CAR went smoothly. The voting took place under strict security with thousands of UN peacekeepers were stationed throughout the country. According to the African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM), there were enough ballot papers at the polling stations they visited.
But some voters complained they had been turned away from the polling station because their names were not in the voter's register, although they had voted in the previous round. The president of the National Election Authority (NEA) Madeleine Hoornaert Nkoet told DW that this was impossible. "We were using the same lists, but as you know there has been a lot of fraud with the vouchers."
During the first round, voters only needed to show their registration voucher. The first round of parliamentary elections was cancelled due to irregularities. This time the electoral commission insisted on full identification.
Samba-Panzer happy with the process
"I am satisfied that the election took place calmly and peacefully", says Catherine Samba-Panza, the interim president of the transitional government in an exclusive interview with DW. "When we went to vote we saw for ourselves that there were fewer voters waiting." According to Samba-Panza many of them had been disappointed that their favorite candidates didn't come out on top and thus stayed away from the polling stations. Voter turnup was 55-60 percent and much lower than in the first round on the 30th December which recorded 80 percent.
The final results are expected in two weeks time. Analysts predict a neck-to neck-race between the front-runner Georges Anicet Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera. In the first round, Dologuele got 23,78 percent of the votes while his opponent only managed 19,42 percent.
Both candidates are known as technocrats whose election pledges sound more or less similar. Furthermore they are both well known members of the former establishment and they are both connected with ex-ruler Francois Bozize: Faustin Archange Touadera entered the campaign as an independent without a political party. He was prime minister under Bozize from 2008 to 2013. Touadera still is very popular among Central Africans since he introduced the rule that all government salaries are directly paid to bank accounts, an effective tool that ended an era of late payments and unpaid wages.
Birds of the same feathers
His opponent Anicet Georges Dologuele also was prime minister from 1998 to 2001 under the former president Ange-Felix Patassé. He was nicknamed "Mr. Clean" since he made efforts to bring transparency to obscure public finances. Shortly before the first round on 30th December 2015, Francois Bozizé assured him of his support.
Dologuele's response was that there would be "a place" for him but without going into details. When DW asked if Bozize was planning a return from exile in case Dologuele wins the elections, Francois Bozize said it was much too early to talk about that. To escape the international arrest warrant issued on him by the CAR's authorities, Bozize fled the country.
Big task ahead
The new president's biggest challenge in rebuilding the country will be to put an end to interreligious conflicts and to restore stability and security to a country that has seen so much suffering and blood shed over years. The religious crisis was caused by the coup against president Francois Bozize a Christian by the mainly Muslim Seleka Rebel alliance.
"The country needs a national reconciliation process. The society is effectively torn", says Ahmed Dieme, a Senegalese consultant and expert on geopolitics and economy in the region of Sahel. Paul Melly, political analyst from Chatham House, agrees, "this recent instability has really opened up mistrust and in some cases even hatred between Christians and Muslims", he says. "Healing those rips and bringing an end to the hate ideology is going to be difficult."
Both candidates were not involved in the civil conflict, they were not members of armed groups. Melly says, this is good and difficult at the same time, "because they don't have the power to challenge someone with a gun. They can only set up moral leadership" he adds. Whoever will win the elections has a big task ahead of him.
Abu-Bakarr Jalloh, Fréjus Quenum and Eric Topona contributed to this article.