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Democratic Republic of Congo to push back elections despite outrage

The ruling coalition and smaller opposition parties in DR Congo have agreed to delay the presidential vote for over a year. Many government critics suspect a ploy to keep president Kabila in power past his term limit.

Congo's ruling coalition and part of the opposition have agreed to move the ballot to April 2018 after a meeting on Sunday, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties in the African country. According to a deal, President Joseph Kabila will stay in power at least until April 2018, when the rescheduled presidential vote is due to take place. Originally, the vote was set for November this year.

The deal also foresees the installment of a new prime minister from the opposition, most likely Vital Kamerhe from the Union for the Congolese Nation.

Kabila was due to step down at the end of his second term in December. In late July, however, the DRC's electoral body said it was not able to meet the election schedule due to logistic and budgetary problems.

The move sparked an immediate response by most of the opposition, who decried it as a conspiracy to delay transition of power. The protests grew violent and claimed at least 50 lives in September.

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EU threatens sanctions

International stakeholders, including the US and the European Union, also  pressured the government  to hold elections in the coming months. The EU is considering sanctions against the African country, according to diplomatic sources.

Congo's main opposition bloc did not immediately comment on Sunday's reports. However, the body had already called for a general strike on Wednesday to press Kabila to leave office.

Kabila took power in 2001, after the nation's previous leader was assassinated. The current president was 29-years-old at the time of his installment. The country's constitution prohibits him from running for another term. However, the possibility has grown more likely with Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza and other African leaders seeking to prolong their rule in controversial ways.

The decision on moving the elections is expected to be ratified on Monday.

dj/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

 

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