, BANGUI, Feb 2 – Francois Bozize has been comfortably re-elected to a second term as president, according to provisional figures, but all four rival candidates had by Wednesday denounced the result as a fraud.
Bozize received just over 66 percent of the vote in the January 23 poll, according to provisional results released late Tuesday by the independent election committee (CEI) after the January 23 legislative and presidential elections.
That meant he had scored an outright victory in the first round.
Government spokesman Fidele Ngouandjika declared: "It is a victory of democracy for someone who took power in a (2003) coup d\’etat and who was legitimised by the ballot in 2005."
Bozize won the last presidential election in 2005 with about two-thirds of the vote.
"It\’s the reward for work well done. The people have judged him and have approved him after five years in power," addedNgouandjika, who helped run the president\’s election campaign.
But the runner-up, former president Ange-Felix Patasse, on Wednesday denounced the result as fraudulent.
He vowed to file an appeal with the constitutional court, as two other losing candidates have already said they will do.
Patasse\’s spokesman Guy Simplice Kodegue said from the Gabonese capital Libreville that Bozize had "stolen the choice of the Central African people."
Kodegue slammed Joseph Binguimale, the president of the CEI, as a "puppet of Bozize. These elections have not been organised in legal conditions," he said.
The other three candidates — former premier Martin Ziguele, ex-defence minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth and Emile Gros-Raymond Nakombo — have already dismissed the ballot as a "masquerade."
The trio, all members of the opposition Collective of Forces for Change (CFC), had demanded preconditions before the vote counting started. Later they said they had not been notified the procedure was under way.
Nakombo and Ziguele said they would lodge appeals with the constitutional court.
"Now … the legal battle is going to start because we have to give back to the people the victory that has been stolen from them," said Nakombo.
But Ziguele, who pushed Bozize to a second-round run-off in the 2005 election, said he had no illusions: "The court is going to endorse the results," he predicted.
Bozize had been tipped to win another term, with Patasse, the president he ousted in a 2003 coup, his strongest challenger.
Patasse came second with 20.10 percent of the vote, followed by Ziguele with 6.46 percent, Nakombo with 4.64 percent and Demafouth with 2.72 percent, the independent commission said.
Turnout was put at 54 percent. The results have to be validated within 15 days of the January 23 election by the constitutional court.
The results of the legislative election have not yet been released.
Observers have said the vote, the culmination of a peace process launched in 2008 to integrate the opposition and rebels, was also poorly organised, with voting materials not arriving in some areas in time for voting day.