In the Democratic Republic of Congo, results for the first presidential election in over 40 years have been released. The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Apollinaire Malu Malu, said that of the 33 presidential candidates, President Kabila emerged with slightly less than 45% of the vote while Vice President Bemba received 20% of the vote. Voters will return to the polls on October 29th for a runoff between the two candidates. Although several international observers noted irregularities in the voting and tabulation periods, none were serious enough to alter the outcome of the first round.
Election monitor Colin Stewart of the US-based Carter Center says his organization will track the runoff election. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that the contest raises issues about regional rivalries and ethnic violence; however he hopes that supporters of the candidates will refrain from engaging in violence.
“Certainly everybody expects it to be a vigorously contested election,” says Stewart.
“Certainly, one of the concerns you hear often voiced here in the Congo is the geographic split. President Kabila’s support is concentrated in the East and Vice President Bemba’s is in the West, and there are various ethnic and other geographic considerations to their support. And so I think there’s a general concern that the campaign not become divisive. And certainly one of our main concerns will be to find a way to encourage all of the candidates to accept the results, no matter what they are.”
Stewart said that he had no first hand knowledge regarding reports that a soldier guarding Vice President Bemba was killed in clashes with President Kabila’s security team. He said he heard brief sounds of gunfire Sunday evening near the monitoring team’s office, but did not think the incident was related to the election.
“Personally I would be surprised if this was directly related to the election in the sense that I don’t think that either of those two groups would have an interest in disrupting the process, since they’re both going to be going on, graduating in a sense to the next round. There isn’t any rationale really for those two groups to want to disrupt the process. So my own speculation is that this is an incident that occurred out of some sort of friction and wasn’t related to the announcement of the results this evening.”
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