Polling stations opened on Wednesday in a presidential election in Central African Republic aimed at restoring democratic rule in a divided country gripped by years of violence in which thousands have died, witnesses said. Thirty candidates are competing for the presidency. In the absence of opinion polls or an incumbent, a likely winner is difficult to predict, but leading candidates include former prime minister Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Martin Ziguele. Elections are also taking place for the 105-seat National Assembly. The CAR has been torn by sectarian violence since the Muslim Seleka alliance seized power in March 2013. A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, then took up arms against the Seleka. In January 2014, a transitional government formed but elections have been postponed four times since February 2015 due to insecurity and logistical challenges.