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DR Congo extends elections amid chaos, opposition calls for rerun

December 21, 2023
DR Congo extends elections amid chaos, opposition calls for rerun

The has extended its elections into Thursday for those whose polling stations failed to open on Wednesday, leading a group of opposition presidential candidates to call for a rerun of the chaotic vote.

The stakes are high, not only for the legitimacy of the next administration but also due to the potential consequences of election disputes in a nation that is the world's third-largest copper producer and the leading producer of cobalt, a crucial component for the green transition.

The decision to extend the vote by the national election commission (CENI) follows a contentious campaign and an election day marred by delays, allegations of fraud from the opposition, and instances of violence.

CENI President Denis Kadima acknowledged the challenges, stating, “On the contrary, it is a demonstration that we want to grant the same right to (all) Congolese.”

However, the opposition and independent observers had raised concerns about the possible extension, fearing it could enable fraud.

In a joint statement, five opposition candidates, including top challengers Martin Fayulu and Denis Mukwege, declared the commission had no constitutional or legal right to extend the vote.

They demanded the reorganization of the elections by a differently structured CENI and at a date agreed upon by all stakeholders.

“It is total chaos,” remarked Fayulu, who was the runner-up in the disputed 2018 presidential election.

President Felix Tshisekedi is now competing against 18 opposition challengers in the hope of securing a second term.

Throughout election day, observers noted delays in opening polling stations, malfunctions of electronic voting systems, and violent attacks.

Nobel Peace Laureate Mukwege condemned what he called “the proliferation of serious dysfunction and irregularities…which confirm our fears of evidently planned electoral fraud.”

The had repeatedly rejected opposition allegations of mismanagement and fraud in the lead-up to the elections, insisting on its ability to deliver a free and fair vote.

The observer mission of Congo's , known as CENCO, warned that an extension would undermine the integrity of the results.

“It is important for the election to take place in one day to avoid fraud,” said CENCO Secretary-General Donatien Nshole.

Approximately 44 million Congolese registered to participate in the elections, with the observer mission cautioning against potential electoral transparency issues.

Full provisional results were expected by December 31, but the latest developments raise questions about the timeline.

The presidential election, requiring a simple majority to win, is decided in a single round.

Despite the chaos, some voters, like 28-year-old homemaker Rebecca Tommy in Beni, remained undeterred.

“Even with night falling, I will wait,” she said, emphasizing her commitment to exercising her right to vote.

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