Major challenges ahead for Bozize after poll victory

After three months and two rounds, the Central African Republic's presidential and parliamentary elections are over with the final results announced on Tuesday, but the newly-elected president, Francois Bozize, and the 105 members of the new National Assembly face the country's same basic problems as before.

"It's a good thing to win elections but the new government must quickly renew negations with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, and the government must increase its revenue to pay workers who are starving," Theophile Sony-Colle, a union leader who won a legislative seat in the capital, Bangui, told IRIN on Wednesday.

A 2004 IMF report found empirical evidence that the country's political instability was linked to the government's inability to pay salaries of civil servants and military personnel. Many have not been paid for more than five months and prices of foodstuffs are rising.

Sony-Colle said the price of a 50-kg bag of cassava, a basic foodstuff in the CAR, had gone from 12,000 francs CFA (US $23) in 2004 to 24,000 francs ($46) today.

"I hope the government will quickly address problems of prices of foods which are increasing," he said.

Unidentified armed groups continue to extort villagers and passing vehicles in various parts of the country.

The international community has acclaimed the country's electoral process.

This brings "to a successful and peaceful end the transitional process in the CAR and the return to constitutional governance in the country," Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said on Tuesday.

Bozize, who came to power in 2003 with a coup, was declared the winner of the presidency polling 64.6 percent. The coalition supporting him, known as Convergence Nationale Kwa na Kwa, won 42 of the 105 seats of the National Assembly.

This will enable Bozize to chose his prime minister from amongst his supporters and avoid what is known in French as "cohabitation" with a prime minister chosen from another party, thus diluting the president's power.

However, Bozize said he was ready to reach out to other parties. "Today we have no other choice but to come together to rebuild our country destroyed by repeated political-military crises," Bozize said in his first post-election speech broadcasted by the state-owned Radio Centrafrique.