UN chief praises 'peaceful' Central African Republic vote

Supporters of Central African Republic's president-elect, Faustin-Archange Touadera, celebrate his election in the streets of Bangui (AFP Photo/Pacome Pabandji) (AFP/File)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday praised the peaceful conduct of presidential elections in the Central African Republic, calling on the war-torn country's leaders to maintain a "constructive atmosphere."

Ban congratulated Faustin-Archange Touadera on his victory according to preliminary results of the vote, which many hope marks a step toward reconciliation in the country after years of sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.

Ban also called on the transitional authorities to complete the electoral process with the "timely" holding of a second round of parliamentary elections and "ensure the completion of the political transition process by March 31."

"The Secretary-General commends the peaceful holding of the elections in the Central African Republic," said a statement from Ban's office.

"The Secretary-General calls on all political leaders and national stakeholders to continue to maintain the constructive atmosphere and for all actors to maintain their commitments in line with the electoral code of conduct."

Touadera -- a former math professor and onetime prime minister -- was declared the winner Saturday after sweeping to victory with more than 60 percent of the vote in last weekend's runoff.

Ban expressed "appreciation" for Touadera's rival, Anicet-Georges Dologuele -- another former prime minister -- saying his concession speech showed "the spirit of statesmanship."

The Constitutional Court must certify the election's results within a week for them to become final.

Touadera said Sunday he felt the "full measure" of the Central African Republic's problems and would hurry to restore unity.

That is a huge challenge in a country where fighting has forced nearly half a million people to flee to neighboring nations and left half the population with limited or no access to food.

Rebel groups still control much of the country's territory.

France is set to withdraw 900 remaining troops from the Central African Republic after it sent peacekeepers there during the height of the violence in 2013.

A UN peacekeeping mission numbering 11,000 troops will remain in place after the new government takes office.