Congo opposition welcomes delay in release of election results

The election result is being contested ... Photo Credit: Guardian UK

Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition party, Union for Democracy and social Progress (UDPS), said on Wednesday it welcomed a delay in election results since this would allow time to make the vote more credible and transparent.

Violence has flared in the vast, infrastructure-poor central African country amid allegations of fraud and logistical hurdles, raising worries the first locally-organised elections since a 1998-2003 war could trigger further bloodshed.

“This delay is the search for truth, it’s not a deliberate act,” said Remy Masamba, a spokesman for the UDPS, the party of main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi.

“We think the international community has taken hold of the situation and started to push for more transparency, a minimum of credibility.”

Congo’s electoral body had been due to declare complete preliminary results on Tuesday, but delayed by 48 hours because they had not received official tallies from all 63,000 polling stations across a country more than half the size of the EU.

With nearly 90 per cent of ballot papers counted, President Joseph Kabila had just under half the vote and leads Mr. Tshisekedi by 15 points, the National Election Commission says.

The opposition has repeatedly rejected the figures as “fantasy”.

At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence, according to Human Rights Watch, and neighbouring Congo Republic has prepared a refugee camp in case an escalation triggers an exodus from the capital Kinshasa.

Tension was high overnight with foreign embassies restricting staff to their homes and security forces patrolling the streets of Kinshasa.

Diplomats including the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo met both Mr. Kabila and Mr. Tshisekedi on Monday, but have refused to say what was discussed.

The decision to delay the publication of full results was announced late on Tuesday evening, throwing cold water on a victory party planned for hundreds of Kabila supporters in Kinshasa’s top hotel.

“It doesn’t make any difference, we’re still going to win,” one supporter said as guests started to drift away.

The Nov. 28 polls were poorly organised and suffered from widespread irregularities and fraud according to the EU and Carter Centre observer missions, but monitors have stopped short of calling for results to be annulled.

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