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November 28, 2011

Congo Opposition Candidate Calls for Annulment of Vote

by Scott Stearns

One of the leading presidential candidates in the Democratic Republic of Congo said Tuesday that he wants this week's elections annulled because of what he says is systematic fraud. The vote has been marred by violence and the late delivery of ballots, which forced officials to extend balloting.

Vital Kamerhe wants the vote annulled because, he says, ballots were marked in advance for incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

In a letter to the president and the electoral commission, Mr. Kamerhe said “there can be no doubt as to the scale of the fraud, deliberately planned by those in power with the connivance of the national election commission.”

Three other presidential candidates joined the call, denouncing what they assert was President Kabila's use of state resources during the campaign, saying they have no faith in the legislative and presidential election results, given what they called “breaches and irregularities.”

Mr. Kamerhe first alleged the existence of pre-marked ballots before Monday's vote. The electoral commission says South African authorities investigated claims about the South African-printed ballots and determined that there was no fraud.

Mr. Kamerhe is especially popular in the DRC's eastern provinces, where he campaigned for President Kabila in 2006. The leading opposition presidential candidate in this election - Etienne Tshisekedi - has also alleged vote fraud, but has not joined Mr. Kamerhe's call for an annulment.

Voting continued on Tuesday after some polling places ran short of ballots.  Some voting stations failed to open on Monday because they did not receive ballots. The United Nations says it continued to deliver ballots late Tuesday, meaning that there will be some voting on Wednesday.

In a country the size of Western Europe and with more than 63,000 polling stations, electoral commission spokesman Matthieu Mpita says that if there are problems at even 1,000 polling places, “that is manageable.”

President Kabila is facing 11 challengers.  Voters are also choosing from among more than 18,000 candidates for 500 seats in the national assembly.