Corneille Nangaa Head Electoral Commission
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s , has delayed the long awaited election to replace President
Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country for nearly 18 years, by a week to December 30, the country’s
electoral commission said Thursday.
Sunday’s long-awaited vote, which has been postponed
repeatedly since 2016, was again pushed back amid political turmoil and one of
the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history.
Commissioners blamed a blaze that engulfed a warehouse
housing electoral materials in the capital Kinshasa earlier this month,
incinerating thousands of voting machines — 80% of the city’s stock.
An opposition coalition that has objected to the use of
voting machines called for an investigation into the fire. The coalition, led
by presidential candidate by Martin Fayulu, alleges the machines could aid
Fayulu, a former Exxon executive, is one of two
opposition candidates seen to pose the biggest threat to Kabila’s chosen
successor, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
The other is Felix Tshisekedi, leader of Congo’s largest
opposition party, who was shown to be leading the race in an October poll by a
New York University research group.
But Shadary, who is under EU sanctions, is expected to
get a boost from the ruling coalition’s control of the media.
Voters in Congo are due to head to the polls following a
violent campaign season, marred by several government crackdowns on opposition
rallies that have drawn parallels with the 2006 and 2011 elections.
The move to delay the vote may further aggravate already
high tensions. After the announcement Thursday, protesters gathered outside the
entrance to the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) headquarters in
Kabila, who said in August that he would not seek
election for a third term, has maintained a fierce grip on the nation since
taking over in 2001, after his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated.
Kabila’s second term ended in 2016, but he refused to step down and tried to
change the constitution to extend his tenure.
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