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Polling for general elections extended in DR Congo, after logistics problems, complaints

By Xinhua
On 21 December 2023 at 07:31

Polling for the general elections will continue on Thursday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), announced Denis Kadima, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Wednesday evening.

Polling extended

"The polling stations which have not opened will open on Thursday," Kadima said, without giving further details.

Some 44 million voters in the DRC go to the polls Wednesday to elect a new president, members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies, as well as municipal councilors, with delays in deployment of voting materials and reports of sporadic violence at some polling stations.

Voters were supposed to cast their ballots from 6 a.m. till 5 p.m., but across the country, many polling stations suffered from logistic problems to keep the electoral process going. Some polling stations started late in the day with long lines waiting.

Five presidential candidates, including Martin Fayulu and Denis Mukwege, main challengers from the opposition, demanded the reorganization of the ballot within a deadline to be decided among the stakeholders and with a new CENI office. These candidates refused to recognize the balloting held Wednesday.

In addition to malfunctioning voting machines, several polling stations also faced a shortage of ballot papers and voting booths. Some voters found that their names were not on the list.

According to the observation mission of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), 31.37 percent of polling stations did not open on time across the country.

"Total chaos"

Several presidential candidates of the opposition publicly contested the ongoing electoral process.

"It’s total chaos. There’s no organization," Martin Fayulu said while leaving the polling station earlier the day after casting his ballots. "If there are polling stations where people do not vote, we will not accept these elections."

Denis Mukwege, another presidential contender, also denounced the dysfunction of the polling stations, saying that the CENI should be held responsible.

"If we find that these irregularities are huge, we are not going to accept that the population is placed in a position" of not being able to elect its leaders, Mukwege said earlier Wednesday at a polling station in Kinshasa.

In Bunia, the capital of the eastern province of Ituri, several electoral kits were destroyed Wednesday morning by war-displaced people angry at not being able to vote.

Several parts of the eastern DRC, still occupied by rebels, are excluded from holding these elections due to inadequate voter registration.

Twenty-six candidates have been registered by the CENI to compete in the presidential elections, including the outgoing President Felix Tshisekedi, who is seeking reelection.

Moise Katumbi, former governor of Katanga province, Denis Mukwege, the winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with rape survivors, as well as Martin Fayulu, who still considers himself the legitimate winner of the 2018 presidential election, are the main challengers facing Tshisekedi.

The electoral law of the DRC stipulates that the candidate who garners the most votes in the first round will become the next president outright, with a five-year term, renewable once only.

According to the official electoral calendar, provisional results are expected on Dec. 31, and the president-elect will be sworn in on Jan. 20 next year.

A voter casts his vote at a polling station in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Dec. 20, 2023. Voters went to the polls Wednesday in the DRC, Africa's second-largest country by land area, amid a tense security context. According to the official electoral calendar, provisional results are expected on Dec. 31, and the president-elect will be sworn in on Jan. 20 next year. (Str/Xinhua)
Voters check information outside a polling station in Goma, capital of North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on Dec. 20, 2023. Polling for the general elections will continue on Thursday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), announced Denis Kadima, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Wednesday evening. (Str/Xinhua)

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