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Congo Poll Candidates Call for Campaigning Suspension


More than half the candidates taking part in the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential elections later this month have called for a suspension in campaigning. In a joint statement issued late Tuesday, the 19 candidates said the printing of millions of excess ballots had undermined the credibility of the elections.

Campaigning for the Democratic Republic of Congo's elections is well under way and the vote is just 25 days away. But the historic ballot has been hit by yet another obstacle.

Nineteen out of the 33 candidates in the race for Congo's presidency have called for a suspension in campaigning, saying irregularities in the preparations for the vote had put its credibility in danger.

On top of the estimated 26 million ballot papers for registered voters, Congo's electoral commission ordered an extra five million in case some are lost or destroyed.

But in a joint statement issued late Tuesday, the candidates said there was no guarantee of where the extra ballot papers would end up and they constituted a risk of fraud.

The ballot papers should be destroyed and campaigning suspended while these irregularities are dealt with, the candidates said.

But Congo's electoral commission, which faces the vast task of organizing an election in a country the size of Western Europe, that lacks basic infrastructure and is still riddled with gunmen, has rejected the accusations.

A spokesman said the extra ballot papers would not be destroyed, but the process is completely transparent and candidates could follow for themselves how many ballot papers are distributed.

The July 30 vote should be the former Belgian colony's first free election in more than 40 years and, it is hoped, will draw a line under Congo's two wars of the last decade.

Congo's last war was officially declared over in 2003, but violence simmers in the lawless east, adding to the four million dead since 1998.

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