Congo presidential coalition leads parliament race

AP News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2012 11:03 AM
Congo presidential coalition leads parliament race

Two months after voters went to polls in a chaotic election, the electoral commission announced Friday that parties supporting Congo's president won two-thirds of legislative seats. The commission also indefinitely postponed provincial elections that were scheduled for March.

Electoral officials said they also want to annul results of the legislative elections in seven of Congo's 169 voting districts and prosecute a dozen candidates accused of introducing irregularities and violence.

Local and international observers have already said the Nov. 28 elections for the president and 500 national assembly seats were too flawed to be legitimate. It was only the second democratic election Congo has ever held, with the stability of the mineral-rich African nation at stake. Critics say any election results are unreliable because millions of voters were unable to cast ballots, hundreds of thousands of ballots have been tampered with and 1.3 million completed ballots went missing.

Even before voting began, security forces attacked and intimidated the opposition, and the voters roll was flawed. According to official results of the presidential race, President Joseph Kabila won with just 49 percent, aided by a constitutional amendment that scrapped a second round if no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

Congo's powerful Roman Catholic Church has called for mass protests Feb. 16 against what it calls "serious errors" in the election results.

The electoral commission said Kabila's own party was leading the national assembly race with 58 seats, parties that have governed in a sometimes uneasy alliance with Kabila won 150 seats, opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi's party had 34 seats and the three main opposition parties, including Tshisekedi's, had 69. A total of 432 seats were counted from the 500-seat national assembly.

But while Kabila's party was ahead, it suffered significant losses because it previously held 111 seats. Eight Cabinet ministers and a provincial governor were among Kabila supporters who lost their seats. Kabila's twin sister and a younger brother both were re-elected to the legislature.

Some 19,000 candidates from 450 parties ran in the legislative elections.

The electoral commission president, the Rev. Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, told reporters the results were weeks late because his officers examined hundreds of complaints of irregularities that required them to deploy across a country the size of Western Europe. Officials had to recount votes in some areas, said Ngoy Mulunda, a relative of Kabila who belongs to his party.

Last week, Catholic bishops called for Ngoy Mulunda and other commissioners to address "serious errors" in the results, or resign.

Mulunda said any further complaints about results should be taken to the Supreme Court. He said the commission will ask the court to cancel the elections in seven voting districts in the south and east.

Tshisekedi already has disputed the presidential vote and declared himself president. Since then, he has been under a form of house arrest with soldiers preventing visitors from entering his home. Soldiers also have forcefully halted protests while calls by civil society and church leaders for new elections or a re-count are being ignored.

In a bid to help save legislative elections, the United States sent electoral officials to help monitor belated counting of ballots but they left in disgust, saying there was nothing they could do to salvage the process.

In yet another condemnation of the process, the Seattle-based Eastern Congo Initiative issued a report Thursday concluding that "Given the levels of fraud ... the international community should assert that the 2011 elections were an abuse of the Congolese people's basic democratic rights."

The November election was only the second democratic vote in Congo's 51-year history and the first to be organized by the Congolese government, funded partly by the United States, the European Union and Britain. The 2006 election was organized by the U.N.

Congo is sub-Saharan Africa's largest country and has suffered decades of dictatorship and civil war. The country's east is still wracked by violence from a myriad of militias and rebel groups.