Congo Electoral Body Defends Delays, Begins Release of Results

Congo Electoral Body Defends Delays, Begins Release of Results

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(Bloomberg) — Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission, CENI, defended the major delays snarling the country’s Dec. 20 polls as the commission began Friday to release a small sampling of results.  

The commission has come under fire from opposition politicians and election observers after the vote continued into a second day when materials didn’t arrive to polling centers on time.   

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“The goal isn’t to seek perfection in order to be applauded,” CENI President Denis Kadima told reporters in Kinshasa, the capital, on Friday. “The goal is to give Congolese the chance to participate in an open, competitive process and a democratic, credible process.”

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Opinion polls prior to the election showed incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi will likely win a second term. 

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Tshisekedi was ahead in the results CENI released Friday from about 5,300 voters in France, South Africa, the US, Belgium and Canada. Results from the domestic tally will continue Saturday, Kadima said. 

Nearly 44 million registered voters could choose among more than 100,000 candidates for national, provincial and local office. Resource-rich Congo is about the size of Western Europe with little infrastructure.

An election observer mission from the Southern African Development Community said Friday only 2% of the sites it visited opened on time. An African Union observer team said about two-thirds of stations it visited opened late or not at all.

Polling continued Friday in a handful of the approximately 75,000 voting centers around the country, despite CENI’s promise the vote would end the previous day, Congo’s reported.

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Multiple presidential candidates have threatened to reject the vote. 

Read: Voting Snafus Spur Congo Opposition to Demand New Elections

The vote is Congo’s fourth since the end of decades of dictatorship and war. The country is the world’s biggest producer of battery mineral cobalt and one of the largest producers of copper. 

At least 1.5 million people couldn’t vote because of ongoing conflict in three territories in eastern and western Congo.

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