* Vote set for Oct. 24
* Delays mean Bozize ruling beyond his mandate
BANGUI, June 17 (Reuters) - Central African Republic’s electoral commission said on Thursday it had agreed to hold presidential and legislative polls on Oct. 24, after two earlier vote dates were scrapped.
President Francois Bozize’s mandate ran out on June 11 but opposition and international groups said problems with voter lists, an insufficient budget, and security threats made a free and fair vote impossible.
“The members of the Independent Electoral Commission are finally convinced that by October 24, all of the challenges will be completely resolved,” said Joseph Binguimalet, president of the commission. He said the date would need to be ratified by presidential decree.
Voting had initially been scheduled for April 25, but less than a month before that date they were postponed until May 16 as a result of opposition claims that there was not enough time to organise a legitimate poll. The May 16 date was scrapped for the same reason at the end of April.
There has been no sign that opposition leaders are contesting Bozize’s continued rule beyond his mandate as a result of the repeated delays.
The landlocked country holds deposits of gold, uranium and diamonds, but has been beset by internal rebellions that have discouraged large-scale investment.
Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 coup, has held talks with rebels and unarmed challengers, but many insurgent groups continue to operate in the north, close to the border with Chad. (Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Charles Dick)