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Kabila Maintains Lead in Latest Congo Election Results

The latest election returns from the Democratic Republic of Congo show President Joseph Kabila moving above the 50 percent mark for the first time.

With a little less than 20 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Kabila leads his closest challenger, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, 53 to 19 percent.

However, the tally does not yet include results from the capital, Kinshasa, where Bemba is believed to have strong support among the city's eight million people.

President Kabila is widely expected to win the landmark election, but he needs at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a late-October runoff.

The U.N. mission in Congo has appealed for patience as electoral workers count the estimated 20 million votes cast in the July 30 poll.

The elections for president and parliament were Congo's first multi-party vote in more than 40 years.

The international community is looking for the election to begin a new era of democracy in Congo, following decades of dictatorship and war.

On Friday, an official from the DRC's Independent Electoral Commission said the counting is now slightly ahead of schedule. He said the commission plans to announce prelimary results from the presidential election on August 20, and results from the legislative polls on September 4.

Also Friday, authorities arrested six electoral workers accused of trying to rig the election results. Meanwhile, 15 minor presidential candidates issued a statement denouncing the elections as fraudulent.

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