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Observers cite 'irregularities' at DRC polls

Latest update : 03/12/2011

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Article text by News Wires

Observers from the European Union monitoring elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo reported Thursday they had witnessed "serious irregularities" at polling stations there. The run-up to the ballot also saw violence between rival parties.

AFP - The European Union monitoring mission for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s elections said Thursday it had observed widespread irregularities but needed more time to release a definitive report.

In its preliminary findings on Monday’s polls, the EU team said its 147 observers had seen “numerous irregularities, sometimes serious”, in 79 percent of the polling centres they visited.

Mission chief Mariya Nedelcheva said observers had seen incidents of attempted ballot box stuffing across several provinces, as well as problems of undelivered election materials, unsealed ballot boxes, voters being turned away from polling stations and other problems.

But “this report is preliminary and the EU election observation mission will not draw any definitive conclusion before tabulation is finished and results are announced”, Nedelcheva, a Bulgarian member of the European Parliament, told a press conference.

Preliminary results from the presidential race pitting incumbent Joseph Kabila against a divided opposition field of 10 challengers are expected on December 6, with parliamentary results due January 13.

Nedelcheva also criticised human rights violations during the election campaign, which was marred by clashes between rival parties’ supporters and police crackdowns on opposition rallies.

She said presidential candidates had not had equal access to the national television network, with Kabila getting 86 percent of airtime to just one percent for his chief rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

She also called into question the independence of the judiciary, after Kabila nominated 18 new magistrates during the campaign—worrying for the elections since the supreme court is charged with examining the preliminary results and declaring them official.

But the EU joined the Carter Center, another major international observer mission, in calling for more time to gather and verify reports from around the vast central African country two-thirds the size of Western Europe.