Central African Republic votes in presidential run-off

Voters wait oustide for the opening of polling stations in Bangui, on February 14, 2016 Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Observers say the vote is taking place at a critical juncture in the history of the Central African Republic

People in the Central African Republic have voted to elect a new president in a run-off contest between two former prime ministers.

Final results in the poll - seen as a step towards restoring peace - are not expected for several weeks.

The seizure of power by a mainly Muslim rebel group in 2013 led to prolonged bloodshed.

Candidates Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele have pledged to restore security and boost the economy.

Both Mr Touadera, portrayed by supporters as a peacemaker who can bridge the Christian-Muslim divide, and Mr Dologuele, who has promised a break from the country's violent past, expressed hope for a high turnout.

Mr Dologuele even referenced St Valentine's Day as he exhorted citizens to vote "as an act of love for their country", Radio Centrafrique reported.

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But a BBC correspondent in the region said there was less enthusiasm among voters than during the first round in December, although election officials said the voting had gone smoothly.

Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun echoed this, telling Radio Centrafrique that he was "not entirely satisfied" with voter turnout.

Voters were also choosing a new parliament following the annulment of a poll in December due to irregularities.

Nearly 80% of the electorate voted in December's first round, which observers saw as a rejection of violence.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Observers praised the calmness of the first round of voting in December
Image copyright AP
Image caption Thousands of UN peacekeepers and French soldiers are providing security

Communal reconciliation and reigniting the country's sluggish economy featured prominently as campaign themes.

CAR is one of the world's most unstable countries and was thrown into political chaos three years ago when mostly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled President Bozize.

Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses, with attacks carried out against the Muslim minority community.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anicet Georges Dologuele won the largest share of first-round votes
Image copyright AP
Image caption Faustin Touadera is a former maths professor

After regional pressure, an interim administration took charge in January 2014 and later that year a 10,000-strong UN force took over the peacekeeping mission.

The north-east of the country is now mostly under the control of Muslim rebels while Christian militias hold sway the south-west.

Thousands died in the fighting and roughly a fifth of the population is thought to have been displaced.

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