Voters head to polls in Central African Republic
Published 30/12/2015 | 09:11
Thousands lined up in the Central African Republic's capital have started voting with hope that a new president will lead to more stability after years of violence.
Voters are choosing a president from a list of 30 candidates to replace transitional leader Catherine Samba-Panza, who was put in place in January 2014 to lead the nation to a poll, which has been delayed several times.
More than 1.8 million people are expected to vote at more than 500 polling stations.
UN peacekeepers and police have been deployed to safeguard polls where violence threatened voters during a referendum on December 13, which was seen as a test for these national elections.
The Central African Republic has been torn by violence since March 2013 when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups overthrew the president.
The fact elections are being held at all and right on deadline is seen as a minor miracle. Still, there were a few problems, with some names of candidates for parliament reported missing from ballots.
But, by midday, there were no reports of violence.
Ms Samba-Panza voted at a school in the capital Bangui, urging others to get to the polls.
"Many thought this day, this vote would not be possible for security and organisational reasons," she said.
"But, you see, we all are voting in dignity and peace and I am proud."
Among the favoured candidates are former prime ministers Martin Ziguele and Anicet Georges Dologuele, and Abdoul Karim Meckassoua, a former foreign minister under overthrown president Francois Bozize.