Congo Continues Voting on Its Second Day Following Chaotic Rollout That Necessitated Extension

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo entered its second day of voting Thursday after a chaotic rollout and lengthy delays forced the election’s extension, drawing criticism from some opposition candidates as concerns mount that the logistical hurdles could challenge the result’s credibility.

At stake is the future of one of Africa’s largest nations and one whose mineral resources are increasingly crucial to the global economy. Congo has a history of disputed elections that can turn violent, and there’s little confidence among many Congolese in the country’s institutions. President Felix Tshisekedi, who is seeking his second and final five-year term, has spent much of his presidency trying to gain legitimacy after a disputed 2018 election.

There is no second round of voting and the winner, expected to be announced no later than Dec. 31, needs to get a majority of votes.

A fractured opposition makes Tshisekedi the likely favorite to win.

Some 44 million people — almost half the population — were expected to vote for Congo’s next president. But many, including several million displaced by conflict in the vast country’s east, found it difficult to do so. The fighting prevented 1.5 million people from registering to vote.

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The election commission said Wednesday there was a delay in the deployment of certain materials and equipment during the vote, which resulted in some polls opening late and others not opening at all. It’s unclear how many voting stations weren’t operational.

Voting stations that didn’t open Wednesday will allow people to cast their ballots between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement by the commission. Locals sat outside polling stations Thursday acting as witnesses to ensure the votes were counted credibly.

Those polling stations that completed voting began counting results late Wednesday night. Each of the 75,000 polling stations is expected to post its results outside before the final results are tallied and announced.

An initial poll three hours after official voting began said that more than 31% of stations in major cities and towns had yet to open, according to Bishop Donatien Nshole, spokesperson of the Electoral Observation Mission of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo and the Church of Christ in Congo, basing the figures on reports from around a fifth of its large network. Additionally, voting machines were faulty in 45% of polling stations, he said.

Opposition candidate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege criticized the election process, saying “the results of such a chaotic vote will not reflect the will of the people.”

The election observer mission said in a statement that it noted several instances of voting materials’ deployment being delayed throughout the country. It also alleged that voter fraud emerged in parts of the northern province of Équateur, where more than 7,000 ballots reportedly were illegally marked before voting.

In conflict-riddled eastern Congo, displaced people said they couldn’t find their names on voter lists. In the city of Bunia, a voting center was vandalized in a dispute between the electoral commission and voters, and gunshots in the area prevented people from voting.

Fighting between more than 120 armed groups for land and power, and to protect their communities, has been ongoing for decades in the east but has worsened in recent years with the resurgence of the rebel group M23, which has seized territory and displaced millions of people.

Some displaced people who were unable to register due to the violence tried in vain to use older electoral cards Wednesday and were turned away.

“I’m displaced by the war, I haven’t voted yet and I don’t know if they’ll allow me to vote with my old 2017 electoral card. I would like to vote to elect new leaders and new members of parliament for the development of our country,” said Theo Bashimbe.

Election observers say they’re preparing for the post-electoral period, when the results could be contested. Nicolas Teindas, the director for the international observation mission for the Carter Center, warned that there were high levels of disputes in the past.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo entered its second day of voting Thursday after a chaotic rollout and lengthy delays forced the election’s extension, drawing criticism from some opposition candidates as concerns mount that the logistical hurdles could challenge the result’s credibility.

At stake is the future of one of Africa’s largest nations and one whose mineral resources are increasingly crucial to the global economy. Congo has a history of disputed elections that can turn violent, and there’s little confidence among many Congolese in the country’s institutions. President Felix Tshisekedi, who is seeking his second and final five-year term, has spent much of his presidency trying to gain legitimacy after a disputed 2018 election.

There is no second round of voting and the winner, expected to be announced no later than Dec. 31, needs to get a majority of votes.

A fractured opposition makes Tshisekedi the likely favorite to win.

Some 44 million people — almost half the population — were expected to vote for Congo’s next president. But many, including several million displaced by conflict in the vast country’s east, found it difficult to do so. The fighting prevented 1.5 million people from registering to vote.

Political Cartoons

The election commission said Wednesday there was a delay in the deployment of certain materials and equipment during the vote, which resulted in some polls opening late and others not opening at all. It’s unclear how many voting stations weren’t operational.

Voting stations that didn’t open Wednesday will allow people to cast their ballots between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement by the commission. Locals sat outside polling stations Thursday acting as witnesses to ensure the votes were counted credibly.

Those polling stations that completed voting began counting results late Wednesday night. Each of the 75,000 polling stations is expected to post its results outside before the final results are tallied and announced.

An initial poll three hours after official voting began said that more than 31% of stations in major cities and towns had yet to open, according to Bishop Donatien Nshole, spokesperson of the Electoral Observation Mission of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo and the Church of Christ in Congo, basing the figures on reports from around a fifth of its large network. Additionally, voting machines were faulty in 45% of polling stations, he said.

Opposition candidate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege criticized the election process, saying “the results of such a chaotic vote will not reflect the will of the people.”

The election observer mission said in a statement that it noted several instances of voting materials’ deployment being delayed throughout the country. It also alleged that voter fraud emerged in parts of the northern province of Équateur, where more than 7,000 ballots reportedly were illegally marked before voting.

In conflict-riddled eastern Congo, displaced people said they couldn’t find their names on voter lists. In the city of Bunia, a voting center was vandalized in a dispute between the electoral commission and voters, and gunshots in the area prevented people from voting.

Fighting between more than 120 armed groups for land and power, and to protect their communities, has been ongoing for decades in the east but has worsened in recent years with the resurgence of the rebel group M23, which has seized territory and displaced millions of people.

Some displaced people who were unable to register due to the violence tried in vain to use older electoral cards Wednesday and were turned away.

“I’m displaced by the war, I haven’t voted yet and I don’t know if they’ll allow me to vote with my old 2017 electoral card. I would like to vote to elect new leaders and new members of parliament for the development of our country,” said Theo Bashimbe.

Election observers say they’re preparing for the post-electoral period, when the results could be contested. Nicolas Teindas, the director for the international observation mission for the Carter Center, warned that there were high levels of disputes in the past.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Congo has entered its second day of voting in the presidential election, following a chaotic rollout and lengthy delays that forced the extension of the election. This has raised concerns about the credibility of the results. The outcome of the election is crucial for the future of the country, which is one of Africa’s largest nations and possesses valuable mineral resources that are significant to the global economy. President Felix Tshisekedi, seeking his second and final term, has been working to gain legitimacy after a disputed election in 2018. With a fractured opposition, Tshisekedi is considered the likely favorite to win. However, many obstacles have hindered the voting process, including conflicts that have displaced millions of people and prevented them from registering to vote. The election commission has acknowledged delays and equipment issues in some polling stations. Observers have expressed concerns about voter fraud and the potential for disputes during the post-electoral period. The winner, expected to be announced by December 31, must secure a majority of votes.

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