Congo scrambles to tally votes as tensions mount

KINSHASA Tue Dec 6, 2011 6:18am EST

A riot policeman sits atop a minibus in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa December 5, 2011.  REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

A riot policeman sits atop a minibus in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa December 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Emmanuel Braun

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo electoral officials struggled to finish counting votes from last week's presidential election on Tuesday, sending helicopters to remote polling stations in an effort to meet a midnight deadline.

A delay in issuing full preliminary results from the vote in the vast central African state could further complicate an election already marred by deadly violence, logistical problems and allegations of fraud.

"We want to keep to the date of December 6, but we've had some logistical problems, these have hampered us," electoral body spokesman Mathieu Mpita told Reuters by telephone. "If we don't have the maximum initial tallies, we will release partial results," he said.

The electoral commission set the deadline for a full preliminary count of December 6, the fifth anniversary of President Joseph Kabila's inauguration, and the day the opposition says marks the end of his constitutional term.

U.N.-led diplomatic efforts are under way to allow a delay to the results if needed, according to sources.

Partial preliminary results issued so far, representing nearly 70 percent of the ballots cast, give Kabila a 10-point lead over his chief rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence so far, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, and a senior member of Kabila's camp said the government will have to call in the army if protests become "too chaotic".

There was a heavy security presence on the streets of the capital on Monday night, and some residents on Monday piled into boats to cross the Congo River into neighboring Congo Republic, fearing violence.

The first locally organized and funded election since the official end of years of war in 2003 was meant to offer hope of greater stability in the mineral-rich, crisis-riddled giant. But fears are mounting that a rejection of the results will pave the way for further bloodshed.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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Comments (2)
Fromkin wrote:
This is another biased report of a corrupt media. The majority of Congolese has rejected the corrupt and brutal regime of kabila but those profiting behind the dying regime are participating in this fraud for theirs own selfish interests. The electoral commission has no credibility whatsoever. The West wants bloodshed in Congo so it can achieve its dream of breaking up Congo to steal its resources. We will never accept kabila. why are you talking about fraud in Russia but keeping silent about the bigger one in Congo? kabila lost. we need true results. not the fake ones being reported by a corrupt media.

Dec 06, 2011 6:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
Fromkin wrote:
kabila lost badly but is trying to cling to power by force. This will be a long battle. kabila must go back to Rwanda where he was born. In the history of elections it’s never been an election as rigged and fraudulent as the one held in Congo. All means of stealing an election has been used: ballots stuffing, beating observers, burning ballots in favor of Mr. Tshisekedi who has won, intimidating voters, ransacking polling stations where kabila was sure to loose to create chaos. I am surprise that the international press has decided to side with an election looser. Is democracy not a good thing for Congolese people? No french, english or american would have accepted this kind of nonsense. You have decided not to help Congolese people. All we are asking you now is to be on the sideline and watch us free our country from this brutal dictator.

Dec 06, 2011 7:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
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