Snaking queues had formed outside polling stations in the capital Bangui by the scheduled start of the election at 0600 GMT but in many places the start of voting was delayed for a few hours by logistical glitches.
Among the areas affected by the delays was the flashpoint PK-5 district, a Muslim enclave where five people were killed during voting in a referendum on December 13.
Security was tight, with UN troops patrolling the neighbourhood which has been a focal point in clashes between rebels from the Muslim minority and Christian militia, but the enthusiasm of voters was undimmed.
“I vote because I’m patriotic. To rebuild the country, the hospitals and schools,” Ousmann, a 27-year-old resident told AFP.
His sentiments were echoed by Philippe Bodo, who voted across town in the second aggrandisement, or district.
“We have to change the destiny of the country. But this time the will of the people must not be hijacked,” he said.
Three men are seen as front-runners in a race with 30 presidential candidates. All three are experienced politicians who have held senior government posts. One is Muslim.
The elections were delayed several times, mainly for security reasons. — AFP.