The parliamentary election included run-off votes in 49 electoral districts and first round voting in 69 districts where violence stopped the vote from taking place in December.

Voters wait as a electoral commission official checks a voter's roll at the polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic, on March 14, 2021 during the country's legislative elections.
Voters wait as a electoral commission official checks a voter's roll at the polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic, on March 14, 2021 during the country's legislative elections. (AFP)

Voters in the Central African Republic have cast their ballot at heavily guarded polling stations in a second round of parliamentary elections after rebel violence marred December's polls.

Voting started smoothly with just slight delays across the capital Bangui, the electoral body said. Small lines of residents could be seen waiting to vote as large numbers of police and gendarmes stood by.

"So far in Bangui it's going well," National Elections Authority spokesman Theophile Momokoama said by phone.

Authorities are anxious to avoid a repeat of the turmoil surrounding December's vote when President Faustin Archange Touadera won re-election, but rebels, who the United Nations say are backed by former president Francois Bozize, sought to take control amid allegations of voting irregularities.

READ MORE: Central African Republic court confirms Touadera’s re-election as president

The insurgents laid siege to the capital Bangui in January, strangling food supplies, forcing more than 200,000 from their homes and raising concerns that the country was slipping back into the kind of sectarian conflict that has killed thousands over the past decade.

READ MORE: Central African Republic declares state of emergency after armed attacks

Extra forces on ground

Sunday's vote included run-off votes in 49 electoral districts and first round voting in 69 districts where violence stopped the vote from taking place in December.

The government and the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA have both expressed confidence Sunday's election will be peaceful due to extra forces on the ground and the capture of rebel strongholds since their initial offensive.

READ MORE: UN urges increase of peacekeepers in CAR to maintain peace, aid

But the situation is far from stable in the gold- and diamond-rich nation of 4.7 million people that has seen repeated bouts of violence since Bozize's ouster in 2013.

Low turnout in December due to insecurity prompted opposition candidates to dispute the legitimacy of the result.

Retired teacher Bertrand Dena, 50, said he was reassured by the heavy police presence at his polling station in Bangui.

"When you vote, you want peace," he said. 

READ MORE: UN: Central African Republic faces dire humanitarian plight

Source: Reuters