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Congo urged to stay calm during vote count

The United Nations led appeals for calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday as vote-talliers pushed ahead with the count after elections marred by chaos, violence and fraud claims.
/ Source: Reuters

The United Nations led appeals for calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday as vote-talliers pushed ahead with the count after elections marred by chaos, violence and fraud claims.

Results of the presidential vote in the vast country are not expected until Dec. 6, while the outcome of a parliamentary election with no fewer than 18,500 candidates will have to wait until mid-January.

Election observers have signaled cases of attempted fraud such as ballot-stuffing, shortages of voting materials and confusion over the electoral register, while violence linked to the poll has claimed at least eight lives.

Unofficial vote tallies are being sold on the streets of the capital Kinshasa, while opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi's party has upped the stakes by declaring he is due to win a poll which President Joseph Kabila says will grant him a new mandate.

Roger Meece, head of the 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force issued a statement asking "all political leaders to urge their partisans to refrain from any violence or other acts that may disrupt the electoral process.

"The Special Representative further calls on all political leaders and the general population to remain calm, await the pronouncement by the CENI (election commission) on the preliminary results of the elections and to address any grievances they may have through peaceful means," Meece said.

Local media monitoring body CSAC warned media on Thursday against publishing partial results before the official announcement. UN-backed Radio Okapi quoted CSAC president Jean Bosco Bahala they would take action against journalists who reported information that incited violence.

While three opposition candidates have called for the vote to be cancelled, alleging fraud, Kabila's main rivals Etienne Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe have said the vote was good enough despite widespread irregularities.

Congolese electoral observer body RENOSEC said it witnessed irregularities or problems at around 15 percent of polling stations visited, and called on parties to accept the outcome.

The African Union observer mission also praised the poll as broadly satisfactory and urged all parties to accept the result. However the U.S.-based Carter Center raised concerns and said it was too early to make a judgment.

Meece said he shared concerns over irregularities and "the need to assess their impact on the electoral process". The European Union observer mission has also said it is too early to judge whether the poll was credible.

"I would like to ... express the wish that the later stages of the electoral process take place without violence and in a transparent way so that these elections strengthen democracy in the country," EU observer mission head Maria Nedelcheva told a news conference in Kinshasa.

Auguring possible disputes ahead, rival factions have begun jostling to put their spin on the vote based on unofficial tallies of votes made by their party supporters.

"We're warning the outgoing government against trying anything aimed at frustrating the popular will and victory of the Congolese people," Jacquemain Shabani Lukoo, secretary- general of Tshisekedi's UDPS party, told a news conference.

Kabila's ruling PPRD party dismissed UDPS figures pointing to a Tshisekedi win as "fantastical" and said it was 100 percent confident that the incumbent would triumph.

"Nobody can proclaim the results except the CENI, they've not published anything yet," PPRD Secretary-General Evariaste Boshab told a separate news conference, outside which party agents nonetheless handed out unofficial figures claiming a Kabila victory.