Fears of Unrest Loom in DRC With Poll Results Delayed

Posted December 6th, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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State media in the Democratic Republic of Congo say the country's Independent National Electoral Commission will delay announcing results of the presidential election for 48 hours.

The delay in issuing full preliminary results could add to fears of already mounting political unrest in the central African nation, where officials had hoped to announce a winner before President Joseph Kabila's term expired at midnight Tuesday .

Thousands of soldiers are patrolling streets in the capital, Kinshasa, as well as other cities in anticipation of protests.

The U.S. embassy has ordered its employees to remain within Kinshasa's residential Gombe area because of what it called the “fluid security situation.”

Election officials say with more than two-thirds of ballots counted, President Kabila leads his main rival Etienne Tshisekedi 46 to 36 percent.

Both sides have hinted that violence could break out if they are not awarded victory.

The government has dispatched helicopters to remote parts of the vast central African country to collect ballots. Mr. Kabila's term is due to expire at the end of the day.

Officials in the neighboring Congo Republic say thousands of people have arrived from the DRC to escape possible post-election unrest.

Authorities say most of the arrivals are from Kinshasa, which sits across the Congo River from the Republic of Congo's capital, Brazzaville.

The United Nations, European Union and African Union are appealing to Congo's people and political figures to remain calm and avoid bloodshed.

Last week's balloting was only the second free election since the African nation was torn apart by several years of warfare that ended in 2003.

Voting was supposed to last for one day but stretched into three because of ballot shortages and scattered incidents of violence.

Election observers noted the irregularities, and three opposition candidates called for the elections to be annulled.