Pope Francis has called for political forces in the Central African Republic to “avoid any form of violence” amid disputed results from Sunday”s presidential election.
Ten opposition candidates have called for the annulment of the result, which saw President Faustin Archangel Touadéra re-elected in the first round with 53.92% of the vote. The Constitutional Court has until 19 January to validate this result after the appeals announced by the opposition.
Opponents say the election was “discredited” after only one of every two voters in the country was allowed to cast their ballot and have demanded an “outright cancellation”.
“I follow with attention and concern the events in the Central African Republic, where elections were recently held in which the people expressed their desire to continue on the path of peace,” the pope said on Wednesday.
“I invite all parties to a fraternal and respectful dialogue, to reject hatred and to avoid all forms of violence.”
Pope Francis had visited the Central African Republic five years ago to encourage the population to reconcile.
Sunday’s elections were held amid a civil war, which began in 2013 and has been revived in recent weeks by the announcement of a rebel offensive to prevent the election. Voting could only take place or be counted in less than one out of two polling stations in the country.
The ten opposition candidates have claimed there were “numerous irregularities that marred the elections” and have refused to recognise the results published by the Election Authority (ANE).
Two former prime ministers, Anicet Georges Dologuélé and Martin Ziguélé, who came second and third according to ANE, were among those to demand the annulment.
Meanwhile, Ange-Maxime Kazagui, spokesman for the government has defended the elections as “credible”.
“The results are proclaimed, I can only rejoice, like all those who supported the president and it is a vote of rejection of violence.”
The European Union and the United Nations are among those to have praised “the determination of Central Africans to exercise their right to vote, despite the many obstacles” in a joint statement, noting the provisional results.
In 2015 the EU assisted the ANE in organising “free, fair and credible elections” in the Central African Republic, and the bloc has also supported the country’s internal security forces.
Since 2014, the bloc and its Member States have been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in the country, having provided more than €775 million in aid funding.