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Kabila Falls Below 50 Percent in Congo Vote Count


New election results from the Democratic Republic of Congo show the president falling below the 50 percent mark he needs to avoid a run-off vote.

President Joseph Kabila still leads his main challenger, Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba, 49 to 16 percent in the overall count.

But the latest returns, released Thursday, show Bemba winning big in the capital, beating Mr. Kabila 50 to 14 percent in the first of four Kinshasa districts to report its results.

The president had been above the 50 percent mark for several days as Congo's long vote-counting process from the July 30 elections continues.

Bemba is expected to do well as the other Kinsasha districts tally up their votes, setting up the possibility of a late October run-off election.

Last month's polls were Congo's first multi-party elections in more than 40 years.

The country's electoral commission has promised results from the presidential vote August 20. Results from the parliamentary vote are expected in September.

The international community hopes the elections will begin a new era of democracy in the central African country after decades of dictatorship and war. A five-year war that end in 2002 dragged in several of Congo's neighbors and killed some four million people, mostly through hunger and disease.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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