The candidates banned in December 2004 from running in upcoming presidential elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) can now all participate except one: the former president, Ange-Felix Patasse.
State radio announced the news on Sunday and said that presidential, as well as legislative, elections would be postponed from 13 February to 13 March.
A total of 11 candidates can now run.
The announcement followed talks on Saturday in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, between CAR leader Francois Bozize and representatives of political parties and civil society groups. The talks, mediated by Gabonese President Omar Bongo, sought to alleviate a political crisis that followed a decision on 30 December 2004 by CAR’s transitional constitutional court to allow only five candidates to contest the presidency.
Bozize is one of the candidates allowed to run. The banned candidates claimed the decision by the court was illegal and demanded that the court be dissolved.
The participants signed the "Libreville Agreement", which effectively overturned the court’s ruling. The election commission will be responsible for preparing the polls and proclaiming results, while the court will only arbitrate electoral disputes.
Patasse continues to demand that he be allowed to run.
"The Libreville agreement has no legal basis," Patasse said on Monday on the privately owned radio station, Ndeke-Luka. "I was not consulted and did not send my representative there."
Bozize, the former army chief of staff, ousted Patasse on 15 March 2003.
Patasse is banned on the grounds that he is under criminal investigation. Allegations against him stem from atrocities committed during a coup attempt against him in May 2001 when he called on a former rebel leader in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Mbemba, to help foil the coup.
"People in the CAR are still traumatised by the rape and violence," Henri Pouzere, one of the presidential candidates, said.
He said it would be inhuman to allow their "executioner" to vie for the presidency again.
For the parliamentary elections, the electoral commission had previously banned 261 of 928 candidates seeking to compete for the 105 seats of the national assembly. However, on Friday, a national court overruled the commission, allowing 219 of the candidacies to run.
The commission had "misinterpreted some of the articles of the electoral code", the chairman of the court, Henri Gbénénoui, said on Friday at a news briefing.
Most of the banned candidates are opposed to Bozize. Among the candidates allowed to run is Bozizé’s wife, Monique.