CAR postpones key elections for 3 days

The postponement is to allow for more successful organisation and ensure these elections are transparent.

Rwanda soldier from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), gestures as he patrols on 22 January, 2014 in the Pk 13 district, north of Bangui, after after an attack by anti-Balaka fighters. Picture: AFP.

BANGUI - Crucial elections in the Central African Republic have been postponed from Sunday until 30 December because preparations are running late, Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun said on Thursday.

The polls are meant to restore democratic rule in the aftermath of bitter conflict. Mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in early 2013, provoking reprisals from Christian militias that triggered a cycle of inter-religious killings.

The postponement "is to allow for more successful organisation and ensure these elections are more transparent, credible and democratic", Kamoun told Reuters.

Ballots for the presidential and legislative elections, printed abroad, only arrived in the capital Bangui in the last few days and have yet to be distributed to polling stations across a nation with few roads.

Kamoun said a 13 December constitutional referendum had also exposed shortcomings in the training of election workers.

"Most of the poll workers didn't have the level required," he said. "It's absolutely necessary to organise training and find the people we need, especially as the stakes of these next polls are higher than in the referendum."

Elections in the former French colony, where UN peacekeepers and French soldiers are struggling to maintain security, have already been repeatedly delayed.

Central African authorities are under heavy international pressure to move ahead with polls to replace the current transitional administration, the second such interim government since President Francois Bozize was toppled in March 2013.

"I would not characterise it as a setback," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "I think obviously given the very delicate security situation around the country it's important the elections take place in the best possible way."

A UN source, who asked not to be named, said foreign diplomats had proposed a one-week postponement of the polls during meetings with Central African authorities.

Around one in five Central Africans has fled violence in the country, which is rich in diamonds, uranium and gold. About half have left the country altogether.

The fighting between rival militias degenerated into a conflict between Christians and Muslims that has led to de facto partition of the country.