Former prime minister Faustin Archange Touadera is in the lead to become the Central African Republic’s next president, initial election results show. He’s a safe choice, says commentator Ayo Johnson.
With a quarter of the votes counted twenty of the thirty candidates have urged authorities to halt the counting process citing irregularities in the ballot. The vote was seen as a test to stability, and many voters were hoping it would restore peace after three years of conflict between Muslim rebels and Christian militias in which thousands of people have died and around 1 million have fled their homes. The protest by the candidates could mean the final result is contested, but it may be seen by some voters as a last cry by people who see their chances of winning the election slipping away. Faustin Archange Touadera, who served as prime minister under long-running President Francois Bozize, thecurrent favorite of thirty candidates.
The top two presidential hopefuls are likely to go head to head in a run-off election on January 31. DW asked Ayo Johnson, director of Viewpoint Africa, a media organization based in the UK, why Touadera is proving so popular.
DW: What do we know about Faustin Archange Touadera and why people are voting for him?
Ayo Johnson: He is a 58-year-old former math teacher who has had extensive experience in government and governance and is highly respected. It would seem that the people of the Central African Republic have gone for experience, which he clearly has, but also for security. He has led in government, has shown that he understands the elements of governance and he may be able to garner international support and above all donors who are required to help the Central African Republic get back on its feet.
How close are his ties to former president Bozize, who is now living in exile and was banned from taking part in these elections?
He has got close ties with Bozize having worked in his government, and he has clearly supported Bozize’s objectives in the past. But that’s not to say that he supports those right now. In fact, he’s standing very much as an independent, outside of the established political parties, which in a sense has been in his favor, because people see him as someone who’s slightly reform-minded, slightly different in his own approach to governance but quietly different from Bozize. But Bozize’s rule, which Touadera was clearly part of, was one that people tend not to forget. There’s no doubt about that.
We only have partial results at the moment, but why do you think Touadera has taken such a commanding lead?
When we look at the front runners, particularly Touadera or Dologuele – they are all former government ministers. They have extensive experience as leaders and know what they’re talking about and what to expect. The vast majority of the Central African Republic’s population, especially in terms of those who voted, are voting for someone like Touadera thinking that he has the experience, he has the knowledge, and he has what the CAR clearly needs now, which is governance.
These elections aren't over yet - there could be a run-off on January 31. What is your assessment of them so far?
In the last few years the Central African Republic has struggled with conflict and has had multiple leaders. Back in 2013, Bozize was in power, then there was a coup and the Seleka rebels came in to power. Michel Djotodia then became president under the Seleka umbrella, but through excessive pressure from the French, he had to stand down. Since then Catherine Samba-Panza who came in through a transitional government, has been the country’s interim president.
So the Central African Republic has come through a very trying time in its history. There were concerns that there would be problems, which we haven’t seen; that elections would never happen, which they have; that the election would not be peaceful, which it clearly has. So to get to this point despite those expectations, I think the Central African Republic should be very proud of itself for achieving what many thought would be very difficult.