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Congo election body says it will meet deadline for presidential results

THE head of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s election commission said it would meet a December 31 deadline for the release of full provisional presidential results, dismissing opposition calls for a re-run of the disputed vote as the response of “bad losers.”

The CENI commission has come under fire for its handling of the delay-plagued December 20 presidential and legislative elections and the vote count, which the opposition and independent observers say have compromised the credibility of results.

After a turbulent campaign, the poll in Africa’s second-largest country and a major copper and cobalt producer was chaotic. Logistical mishaps, malfunctioning voting machines and violent incidents held up voting in many places, prompting the CENI to extend the vote – a decision whose legality the main observer mission has questioned.

Despite the unscheduled extension, CENI president Denis Kadima told Reuters the commission was on track for releasing full provisional results from the presidential vote on Sunday, December 31 as originally planned.

In an interview, Kadima dismissed allegations that the CENI had not been compiling results fully in accordance with electoral law. He said it was the CENI’s legal duty to produce results quickly, which is why it was relying on some results from voting machines rather than just using tallies from paper ballots.

On Thursday, the independent joint vote-monitoring mission of Congo’s powerful Catholic Church and its Protestant Church urged the CENI only to publish results based on correctly consolidated tallies from local centres.

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“The results we are releasing reflect (people’s) choices,” Kadima said.

Some of the main challengers of President Felix Tshisekedi – who is running for a second term and comfortably leading in the CENI’s interim count so far – have called for a full re-run of the election due to the extension of voting and the widespread irregularities reported by their own and independent observers.

Kadima says the opposition wanted a new vote because “they know they lost … they are bad losers.”

“We did everything with the necessary transparency,” he said.

He also dismissed reports that CENI agents had mishandled sensitive election materials and conducted some election operations outside official centres – actions that the Symocel civil society observer mission said were likely to have distorted results.

“These are limited cases and it is not done with the blessing of CENI,” Kadima said, adding those found responsible would be sanctioned.

The election dispute threatens to further destabilise Congo, which is already grappling with widespread poverty and a security crisis in eastern areas. Contested results have fuelled unrest in the past. On Wednesday, several people were injured after police cracked down on a banned election march. The opposition has vowed to hold more protests.

The latest CENI preliminary results, updated on Friday, showed Tshisekedi in the lead with more than 72% of around 15.9 million votes counted so far.

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CENI has not yet said how many of Congo’s 44 million registered voters participated. It has processed the results of 52,173 polling stations out of 75,969, according to its latest tally.