Democratic Republic of Congo’s election board has postponed a presidential vote scheduled for Sunday by one week until Dec. 30 after a fire destroyed voting materials.
Already delayed repeatedly since 2016, the poll is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is to step down after 18 years in what would be Congo’s first democratic transition.
After a meeting with candidates in the capital, the electoral commission (CENI) said it had not been able to provide sufficient ballot papers for Kinshasa after a warehouse blaze last week destroyed much of the capital’s election material.
“We cannot organise general elections without the province of Kinshasa, and without the Kinois voters – who represent 10 per cent of the electoral body,” CENI president Corneille Nangaa said.
“The presidential, legislative and provincial ballots will take place on Dec. 30, 2018.”
The decision may stoke already high tensions after several government crackdowns on opposition rallies.
After the announcement, a crowd outside CENI headquarters started shouting in protest and was pushed back by police.
Security forces have killed dozens of people in the past two years demonstrating against Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate officially expired in December 2016.
Hundreds of university students took to the streets in Kinshasa on Thursday, protesting any delay to the vote.
The postponement decision caps a chaotic week, which saw more than 100 people killed in fights between rival ethnic groups in northwestern Congo and clashes between police and opposition supporters in Kinshasa.
Those protests erupted after Kinshasa’s governor ordered a halt to campaigning over security fears.
Campaigning had been due to end at midnight on Friday in what has boiled down to a race between Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Shadary, and two main challengers, Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.
Shadary has a big advantage due to sizeable campaign funds and ruling party control of many media outlets.
However, a rare national opinion poll in October had Tshisekedi leading the race with 36 per cent, well ahead of Shadary’s 16 per cent. Fayulu had eight per cent. [Agency Report]
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