KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Voter registration for Congo's November presidential election will not be completed until next year, the electoral commission president said Saturday, suggesting that the vote should be delayed.
Independent National Electoral Commission President Corneille Nangaa said a voter register cannot be ready until at least July 2017 because of logistical problems in registering more than 30 million voters, and because of a lack of funds.
The electoral commission started the registration process in Congo's northwest on July 31.
The opposition has expressed concern that President Joseph Kabila would delay the Nov. 27 elections in order to remain in power beyond his mandate, which ends in December.
Kabila, who has held power since 2001, is barred from running for a third term under Congo's constitution. The constitutional court in May said that the president should remain in office until a new leader is elected. Kabila has not spoken out about his political future.
"The electoral commission does not intend to be in violation of the constitution and took action by launching a revision of the electoral roll," said Nangaa.
The delay is likely to cause further tensions with opposition parties, which have been calling for on-time, free and fair elections.
Jean-Baptiste Bomanza, the deputy coordinator of a coalition of opposition parties, called for the publication of an electoral calendar that "respects the constitutional deadline."
An African Union-appointed mediator, Edem Kodjo, said that dialogue would begin Tuesday on a new electoral timeline.
The opposition parties put forth requirements for their participation in a national dialogue on elections, including the release of political prisoners.
Congo's minister of justice on Friday pardoned 24 people whom the opposition considered political prisoners.
Since Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960, there has never been a peaceful, democratic transition of power.
Kabila took over after his father was shot by a bodyguard, and was then elected president in 2006 and again in 2011.
This story has been corrected to show that voter registration began in Congo's northwest on July 31, instead of the northeast.