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DRC to Hold 2nd Round of Presidential Elections Next Month


The Democratic Republic of Congo's Supreme Court has ruled the second round presidential election can take place on October 29, overruling a decision it made just two days earlier.

On Friday, Congo's supreme court confirmed President Joseph Kabila and one of his vice-presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba, will face each other in a run-off poll, after it had declared the designated date unconstitutional on wednesday.

The Independent Electoral Commission argued that it was impossible to organize a second round as provided by the constitution 15 days after the results of the July 30 first round were announced. A period of 50 days has now been granted.

A lawyer who used to work at the country's Supreme Court, Me Matadi Wamba, says it was crucial for the Court to make this decision.

He says, it would have been impossible to get the necessary materials all over the country for the second round in the prescribed 15 days. He says the Court has now accepted this constraint.

Gunfights between Mr.Kabila's and Bemba's security forces had broken out around the capital Kinshasa when the first round results were announced August 20. At least 23 people died over three days. Mr. Kabila received 45 percent of the first vote, compared with Bemba's 20 percent.

The Electoral Commission's spokesman Dieudonne Mirimo says the ruling means they now have enough time to operate.

He says they started work on the second round as soon as the first round results were announced. Mirimo says, they have nearly handed out fifty percent of electoral kits and he is confident the elections will be held by October 29.

Mirimo says the only issue left to tackle is a current funding shortfall.

He adds that the Commission only needs $10 million to complete their $46 million budget and he thinks the Commission will have it in time for the second round.

These are Congo's first democratic elections in 40 years. The international community hopes they will draw a line under six years of civil war, which is estimated to have led to the death of around four million people, mainly through starvation and disease.

Mr. Kabila and Bemba met on Wednesday for the first time since their forces clashed in August, but no details were given.

The United Nations, which has a 17,000 strong peacekeeping force in Congo, has offered to protect the candidates and urged the leaders to keep their security force under control.

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