By Aaron Ross
KINSHASA Oct 1 The head of Democratic Republic
of Congo's electoral commission said on Saturday that he expects
the presidential election, originally scheduled for this
November, to be delayed until December 2018, lawmakers present
at his speech said.
The announcement is likely to stoke political tensions after
at least 50 people died last week in the capital Kinshasa in
clashes between protesters and security forces over accusations
that President Joseph Kabila is deliberately delaying the poll
to cling to power.
Kabila denies he is behind the delays, which he says are due
to logistical and budgetary constraints in the impoverished,
Commission president Corneille Nangaa told delegates at
multi-party talks, intended to reach a national consensus on the
election date, that the commission would finish updating the
voter registry at the end of July 2017.
It would then require an additional 504 days to organise the
vote, he said, according to representatives of the delegations
who spoke to reporters after the closed door meeting.
Vital Kamerhe, leader of the opposition delegation, said he
remained optimistic a compromise could be found through further
negotiations even as he disputed the commission's estimate.
"In 2006, we needed just 180 days to organise the elections.
Why in 2016, all of a sudden, is it 504 days?," he said.
An audit by the International Organisation of the
Francophonie last year said the presidential election could be
organised about 105 days after the revision of voter rolls was
Even if a compromise is reached, the talks may count for
little as most major opposition parties are boycotting them.
They say the talks are intended to provide a pretext for Kabila
to stay in office.
Martin Fayulu, a leader of the main opposition bloc that
called for last week's protests, said he did not accept that
timeline but declined to comment further.
Fayulu and his allies insist that Kabila, who took office in
2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila, must
step down in December as required by constitutional term limits.
Congo's highest court, however, ruled in May that he can
stay on until a new president is elected.
Congo, the world's top copper producer, has been further
destabilised by the fall in global commodity prices, which
forced the government in June to cut its 2016 budget
(Additional reporting by Amedee Mwarabu Kiboko in Kinshasa;
Editing by Richard Balmforth)