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Despite COVID-19, Central African Republic court says polls must hold

Central African Republic

There will be no extension of the presidential mandate under the cover of coronavirus in the Central African Republic.

This was the final verdict issued by the constitutional court in Bangui, ending a wrangle between the ruling party and the opposition last week.

The government had intended to continue its mandate due to the prevailing coronavirus outbreak arguing that the country will not be ready to hold an election by the end of the year. The judges on the other hand maintained the rule of law must prevail.

The country’s constitution has explicit clauses that prohibit changing the presidential term. One such is Article 35 which states that under no circumstance can the presidential mandate be modified for any reason whatsoever.

Despite the prohibition, in a country plagued by chronic insecurity, the decision by the constitutional court led to varied opinions from the public.

A Bangui resident said he was shocked by the decision: “This verdict surprised us because we thought that the constitutional court should give a favorable verdict to those who initiated this project in partial modification of the constitution going in the direction of the extension of the mandate of the president of the republic and that of the MPs.”

The ruling party had initially tabled the bill in the National Assembly, a motion strongly criticized by the opposition. In the aftermath of the verdict, the parliament speaker agreed to uphold the decision in the parliament.

“You saw the pressure at some point that some wanted to put in our society and as I said at the end of the special session, I have always reminded the people of Central Africa, the compatriots who love justice and freedom to believe in the right, to believe in the constitution.

“It is the only competent institutions of the republic that can respond to our concerns that challenge Central African society.”

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the electoral commission is required to organize a general election by December 27 this year.

A number of African countries are expected to hold elections later this year. Ethiopia has postponed its vote till the virus is no longer a public health threat. The mandate of the current parliaments were extended yesterday much to opposition chagrin.

Togo managed to hold presidential polls in February before the pandemic began to spread more aggressively. Burundi also held polls in May this year whiles Malawi is on schedule to also conduct a re-run. Niger, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania are all in line to hold polls later this year.

COVID-19 stats for CAR as of June 11, 2020 7:00 GMT

  • Confirmed cases = 1,888
  • Number of deaths = 5
  • Recoveries = 38
  • Active cases = 1,845
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