Election Chief: DRC Ready for Monday Polls

Posted November 27th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Violence has marred preparations for the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential and legislative elections, but the head of the electoral commission says the country will be ready to vote on Monday.

At least three people have been reported killed in the run-up to the elections. And at least one opposition presidential candidate says vote tampering in favor of the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, is already underway.

But electoral commission president Daniel Ngoy-Mulunda said Sunday there is no evidence of fraud and despite reports of delays, voting materials have been distributed across the country.

This is only the second multi-party poll since the large central African nation was torn apart by two wars following independence. The last war ended in 2003.

President Kabila, who is running against 10 opposition candidates, is widely expected to win re-election. Results are expected by December 5th, the day before Mr. Kabila's current mandate ends.

President Kabila has been in power since 2001, when he assumed the presidency after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila. He won a presidential vote in 2006.

His strongest challenger, long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, backed down from plans to hold a rally Sunday in the capital, Kinshasa in defiance of a ban on campaigning the day before the election. His advisers say they feared for his safety. On Saturday, Congolese police blocked Tshisekedi and his supporters from leaving the airport for several hours. They fired bullets and tear gas, killing three and wounding several more.

The capital was reported calm on Sunday, described as a “Day of Reflection” in Congo, with no gatherings of large crowds.

Tshisekedi has accused the head of the United Nation's large peacekeeping force in Congo of a bias against him. He has called for removal of mission chief Roger Meece, who once served as the U.S. ambassador in the county.

More than 18,000 candidates are vying for 500 seats in the general assembly.