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Congo plans to delay national vote

October 2, 2016

The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has said it wants to push back national elections to late 2018. The announcement comes as tensions rise over the future of the country's presidency.

Protests in Congo
Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Soteras

Opposition leaders on Saturday rejected the electoral commission's proposal, as calls mount for embattled President Joseph Kabila to step down.

The commission chief, Corneille Nangaa, said that voter registration lists won't be ready until July 2017 and that the government will then need an additional 504 days to organize the vote, effectively pushing the election back to late 2018.

The presidential election was originally scheduled for November.

Kabila has denied that he's behind the delay, though the announcement is likely to trigger further unrest in the African nation, which has already seen rising tension as opposition politicians accuse him of holding on to power despite the fact that his mandate ended in December.

Opposition questions decision

Opposition leaders disputed the electoral commission's interpretation of the events. "In 2006, we needed just 180 days to organize the elections. Why in 2016, all of a sudden, is it 504 days?" asked Vital Kamerhe, leader of the opposition delegation.

Nonetheless, Kamerhe said he was optimistic that a compromise could be reached to help calm the political turmoil.

The announcement comes amid growing unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with violent clashes breaking out following the electoral commission's initial announcement that the November elections wouldn't be possible.

Reacting to the deteriorating security situation, the US State Department ordered families of government personnel in the country to leave.

blc/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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