, BANGUI, Apr 29 – The president of the Central African Republic on Thursday scrapped plans to hold polls May 16 after the elections commission told him it would be unable to organise them in time.
It was the second time in as many months that President Francois Bozize has been forced to postpone the presidential and legislative elections in the cash-strapped country.
This time he set no new date, warning that failure to hold elections soon would mean him remaining president beyond the formal end of his mandate on June 11.
"The elections will not be held on May 16. We will go to the polls when all the parties involved in these elections, including the international community, will be ready," said Bozize after a meeting with the electoral commission and political parties.
"We will leave the rest to the national assembly, because it could be that June 11 will be overtaken," he added.
The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) told Bozize at the start of the meeting that it would be unable to organise the mid-May polls, even though Bozize had previously ordered them put back from April 25.
The CEI "is obliged to say that it cannot technically organise the elections within the scheduled timeframe," spokesman Rigobert Vondo said.
He said the commission would not even have time to complete new voting lists in time for the elections.
The opposition Forces of Change Collective has already announced it was boycotting the polls on the ground they were being held in "conditions that do not guarantee credibility, reliability and transparence."
The CEI said it needed 5.3 million euros (7.0 million dollars) to organise the polls. Chairman Joseph Binguimale said more than one million euros alone was needed to print voting cards "a sum we don\’t have".
Decades of insurgency and unrest have hampered the country\’s economy and it remains one of the world\’s poorest.
Armed groups remain active, including the Lord\’s Resistance Army from neighbouring Uganda, which has sent its troops into the country to track down the rebels. Tens of thousands of refugees from the CAR have fled to neighbouring Chad to escape the violence.
Bozize, in power since he ousted president Ange-Felix Patasse in a 2003 coup, won the last presidential election in 2005 with about two-thirds of the vote.
Bozize is officially a candidate for the presidency, which is also being contested by Patasse, who returned from exile last year to run as an independent.
Bozize stood for president in the republic\’s first democratic elections in 1993, but lost to Patasse.