Central African court cancels legislative election, orders re-vote

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's Constitutional Court has annulled the results of a legislative election, setting back a transition to democracy after years of conflict. Observers had praised the peaceful nature of the polls, meant to end a rocky transition punctuated by violence between militias drawn from the Christian majority and a mostly Muslim alliance of Seleka rebels. Although France and other international partners urged transitional authorities to hold the election, Some analysts had questioned whether Central African Republic was prepared for one. The Constitutional Court's decision cited irregularities in the vote. "The court has decided to cancel the (legislative) election of 30 December 2015 and to reschedule it for the whole country," Zacharie Ndouba, the court's president, said late on Monday. Ndouba said that some of the candidates appeared implicated in the irregularities. More than 400 complaints had been logged, he said. The court's decision raises questions over the next steps for the electoral process. The former French colony could now find itself with a president but no new parliament. On Tuesday, the national election authority scheduled the second round of presidential polls for Feb. 14. It has not yet given a date for the new legislative elections. Former prime ministers Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Faustin-Archange Touadera will face off after neither won an outright majority in last month's vote. Six of the 30 presidential candidates submitted challenges to the court, saying polling was marred by irregularities and called for the vote to be annulled or recounted, but the court dismissed them. The election delay may affect France's timetable to withdraw the rest of its troops, 2,000 of whom were initially sent to restore stability to the landlocked nation. About 900 remained at the time of the vote. (Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Emma Farge and Makini Brice; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Larry King)