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Congo Election Results Trickling Out, Tensions Remain High

The first official results from voting constituencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were posted Tuesday. The results come amid complaints of chaos at counting centers and growing impatience for news of the outcome of elections that were held last week.

More than week after the Democratic Republic of Congo held its first free election in over four decades, the very first official partial results are being announced.

Three compilation offices in the west and another five in the east of the country posted results from the presidential and parliamentary elections that took place on July 30.

According to these, President Joseph Kabila is well ahead in the eastern part of the country while other early reports indicate that Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba is ahead in the west.

Since 169 constituencies are compiling votes, analysts say the results from only eight of them are not enough to give a real indicator of who is leading the historic poll. Still, the analysts say the reports from the eight voting offices do serve an important purpose. They will enable local witnesses to check that the results published are the same as those they counted on the day.

The international community, which spent over $450 million on Congo's polls, hopes the exercise will take the vast nation another step toward peace after a five-year war that has killed over 4 million people.

Although election day passed relatively smoothly, with only a handful of incidents being reported from across the 50,000 polling stations, the days since the poll have been filled with speculation about who is winning, reports of the distribution of fake results and statements by partisan media.

The counting process has also been hit by chaotic scenes and, in the capital, two fires destroyed an unknown number of ballot papers.

The delay in providing results, coupled with these hitches and a lack of transparency in some election offices, is fueling rumors of manipulation.

But observers also fear that politicians may latch onto partial results and try and manipulate their supporters as a result, with potentially violent consequences.