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Congo extends voting for some after election marred by delays

DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo will extend voting in its presidential and legislative elections into Thursday for those unable to vote on Wednesday due to issues in opening some polling stations, the election commission said.

The decision, which caps a chaotic and delay-plagued election day, is likely to meet with pushback from the opposition and independent observers, who have already warned such an extension would undermine confidence in the results.

At stake is not just the legitimacy of the next administration. Congolese election disputes often spark unrest with potentially far-reaching consequences. Congo is the world’s third-largest copper producer, and the top producer of cobalt, a battery component needed for the green transition.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Kinshasa after polls were meant to have closed, Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) President Denis Kadima acknowledged many polling stations had opened late and some not at all and said voting would be extended for those whose centres did not open.

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Earlier independent religious and civil society observers had sounded the alarm about the delays and other issues, including malfunctioning electronic voting systems and violent attacks.

“It is total chaos,” said presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, runner-up in the disputed 2018 presidential election.

“If all the people don’t vote in all the polling stations indicated by the CENI, we won’t accept these elections,” Fayulu said after voting in the capital Kinshasa in the morning.

READ:  Congo's election commission cancels 82 candidates in disputed December polling

President Felix Tshisekedi is competing against 18 opposition challengers in the hope of a second term running the mineral-rich yet poverty-stricken nation.

Opposition candidates have wooed voters with pledges to bring stability, peace, and the economic development they say was absent from Tshisekedi’s first term.

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By ANGE ADIHE KASONGO and DJAFFAR AL KATANTY

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