DRC Voting Extended After Violence, Late Ballots

Posted November 29th, 2011 at 4:05 am (UTC-5)
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Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo are continuing Tuesday in areas where violence or undelivered ballots prevented people from voting Monday.

Election officials have begun counting votes where polling happened peacefully and ended more or less on schedule.

President Joseph Kabila is expected to win re-election, in part because of a new voting system with no runoff, meaning the candidate who gets the most votes will win without having to reach a certain threshold.

Problems with the vote Monday included election materials arriving late – or in some cases not 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's correspondent in the capital, Kinshasa, reported that police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who said they found ballots pre-marked in favor of Mr. 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.

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.

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.