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Ex-prime minister Touadera leads presidential race in Central African Republic

Independent presidential candidate Faustin Archange Touadera has garnered over 23 percent of votes in the Central African Republic, according to an incomplete count. A knockout round is set for the end of January.

Touadera, the 58-year-old former prime minister, won over 120,000 votes, Central African Republic (CAR) electoral officials said on Sunday, after counting one quarter of the ballots. The runner-up, Anicet Georges Dologuele, has claimed some 68,500 of the counted votes.

Touadera served as prime minister under longtime leader Francois Bozize from 2008 to 2013. Despite his experience, the former math professor was considered an outsider in last Wednesday's presidential vote.

A total of 30 candidates ran for the position of head of state, with nearly 2 million of the country's eligible voters also deciding on 1,800 candidates competing for 105 seats in the National Assembly.

Legacy of power

Desire Kolingba, the son of a former president, was in third place with fewer than 40,000 votes, the CAR election authority said Sunday.

Kolingba placed ahead of Jean-Serge Bokassa, son of the self-proclaimed emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa who ruled the African country from 1966 to 1979.

The electoral commission could take up to 15 days before announcing the final results. A second electoral round is expected on January 31.

Elections a 'miracle'

A United Nations peacekeeping mission in CAR described

the late December elections as "a success,"

despite hitches that caused delayed voting at several polling stations.

"We are completely satisfied, this is a success," said Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the head of the MINUSCA mission, after the vote. MINUSCA's military chief, Balla Keita, was even more upbeat in his assessment: "Honestly, we have performed a miracle in a country at war."

The CAR, a Christian-majority country, has been wracked by

bloody violence

since a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, ousted former President Francois Bozize in a March 2013 coup and installed Muslim leader Michel Djotodia in his stead.

Both Bozize and Djotodia were barred from taking part in the election. They are currently in exile and living under UN sanctions over the violence in the country.

dj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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