New parliament meets, elects speaker

The newly elected parliament of the Central African Republic held its first extraordinary session on Tuesday, and elected Celestin Leroy Gaombalet as Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Gaombalet, 63, is also the country's prime minister. He is the Member of Parliament for Bambari, a town in the east of the central African state.

He has 48 hours to choose between being prime minister and speaker.

The coalition Convergence Kwa na Kwa, which backs newly-elected President Francois Bozize, supported Gaombalet's candidature for speaker.

Gaombalet became Speaker by receiving 78 votes against the 18 votes of his challenger, Luc-Apollinaire Dondon Konamabaye, a member of the former ruling party, Mouvement de liberation du peuple Centraficain. Konamabaye was the Speaker when Bozize seized power on 15 March 2003 from President Ange-Felix Patasse.

"I'll ensure that the National Assembly is not just a mere registry chamber," Gaombalet said after his election.

Reacting to Gaombalet's win, Konamabaye said, "I wanted to bring my contribution to the National Assembly, it's a democratic vote, and I congratulate Mr Gaombalet."

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court in Bangui has rejected a request by former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele to have Bozize's election as president invalidated.

In his request to the court on 27 May, Ziguele had claimed that soldiers forced or intimidated people to vote for Bozize during the runoff presidential poll on 8 May.

However, the court rejected Ziguele's request. It said his claims were unfounded.

"Mr Francois Bozize is definitely declared [the] elected president of the republic," Simon-Narcisse Bozanga, a legal advisor at the constitutional court, said.

Bozize is due to be inaugurated on 11 June.