DR Congo votes on second day of chaotic general elections

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A voter casts her ballot at a polling station at a Bwakya school in Lubumbashi in the southeaster DRC on December 21, 2023 [Patrick Meinhardt/AFP]

The vote across Africa’s second-largest country was derailed on Wednesday over logistical issues.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has concluded a second day of voting in chaotic elections after logistical problems forced officials to extend the balloting.

Voting in the impoverished but mineral-rich Central African nation extended into Thursday after some polling stations did not open at all on the first day of the general elections.

Some opposition candidates and observers said the unscheduled extension of the vote could open the results up to legal challenges.

The DRC, one of the poorest countries in the world despite its vast reserves of copper, cobalt and gold, has a history of disputed elections that can turn violent.

Africa’s second largest country held four concurrent elections on Wednesday – to pick a president, national and regional lawmakers, and local councillors.

President Felix Tshisekedi, 60, is running for a second term against a backdrop of years of economic growth but little job creation and soaring inflation.

Tshisekedi, who took office in 2019 and faced 18 challengers, says he wants a second term to “consolidate his gains”.

‘Genuine shipwreck’

Wednesday’s voting was marked by massive delays nationwide as the Independent National Electoral Commission struggled to deliver materials to voting stations long after polls were meant to have opened.

Denis Kadima, the head of the commission, declared on Wednesday night that people in places where casting ballots had proved impossible would vote on Thursday.

It was not clear how many polling stations that involved, but voting took place in cities in the eastern DRC, in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi and in the capital, Kinshasa, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The vote was mostly peaceful, but in the east, a polling booth was ransacked by displaced people who could not cast ballots. In Kinshasa, journalist Pascal Mulegwa was allegedly assaulted by pro-government activists, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Opposition presidential candidate Moise Katumbi, whose team has been compiling its own vote count, said results so far showed him in the lead. He made the claim in a joint statement with opposition backers that also alleged widespread irregularities in the conduct of the vote.

The former ruling coalition, the Common Front for Congo of ex-President Joseph Kabila, called the elections a parody that had brought shame on the country.

“What we witnessed today was a genuine shipwreck of the electoral process,” the coalition said in a statement on Wednesday, as it asked its members to stand by for further instructions on actions to be taken.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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