DRC Voting Extended After Violence, Late Ballots

Posted November 28th, 2011 at 9:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been extended into Tuesday in areas where people were unable to vote because of violence or undelivered ballots.

Voting materials arrived late or in some cases were not delivered at all in precincts throughout the country.

Some polling stations were also affected by violence, mostly in the southern city of Lubumbashi, where gunmen attacked a convoy of vehicles carrying ballots and a polling station in the Bel-Air neighborhood. Congolese officials say several people were killed in the violence.

VOA correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the capital, Kinshasa, that police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who said they found ballots pre-marked in favor of incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

In Goma, independent election official Juvenal Biyamungu said clashes broke out after a man in charge of one polling station started tearing up ballot papers.

In areas were voting happened peacefully and ended more or less on schedule, electoral officials emptied ballot boxes and started the vote count.

The presidential and legislative elections are Congo's second multi-party vote since the end of a brutal civil war in 2003. The presidential race features Mr. Kabila running for re-election against 10 opposition candidates. In the legislative elections, more than 18,000 candidates are competing for 500 seats in the national assembly.

Mr. Kabila won the last presidential poll in 2006. He is widely expected to win re-election, in part because of a new voting system in which there is no run-off, meaning the candidate that gets the most votes on Monday is the winner.

His main challenger is longtime opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who raised fears of unrest ahead of the poll when he proclaimed himself the winner in advance.

In Washington Monday, a State Department spokesman condemned the election-related violence and said the United States was concerned by reports of what he called “anomalies” in the vote.

Election results are expected by December 5, the day before Mr. Kabila's current term ends.

President Kabila has been in power since 2001, when he assumed the presidency after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.