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Congo Opposition Calls for Extended Voter Registration

Opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo are demanding voter registration be extended ahead of November's presidential and legislative polls.

Voter registration in Congo currently is set to conclude at the end of this month. Seven opposition parties are calling on the electoral commission to extend that deadline by 30 days in the capital, Kinshasa, and in some provinces where they say delays and logistical problems could undermine the credibility of the voter list, and the elections themselves.

Head of the opposition party Generation Republicaine, Charles Bofassa, said two months was not enough for registration in Kinshasa, when other provinces were given three months. He said it is true that Kinshasa has roads and fewer problems, but he maintains the registration kits are old and worn-out, the election staff are not trained, and policemen are asking for bribes from people.

Officials of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy say logistical shortfalls could lead to serious voter apathy.

The party's executive secretary, Roger Bonga, said that in parts of the country, like Equateur Province, some registration centers have yet to enroll a single voter.

Bonga said with just two weeks left, Bolamba in Equateur Province has enrolled only 40,900 voters, whereas in 2005 that figure was 68,189 voters. He said there are 10 registration centers in that province that do not have any voter cards and three registration centers where no voters have been enrolled. He said the computers are breaking down or freezing after every five or six enrollments. When some of the election kits arrived, he said, the boxes meant to contain computers were simply empty.

The head of Congo's independent electoral commission said he received the opposition's demands in writing, is reviewing their claims and attempting to verify them.

The vast, resource-rich country is set to go to the polls on Nov. 28 for what will be the country's second national elections since a 2003 peace deal ended five years of fighting that killed millions of people.

Opposition parties boycotted a January vote in parliament that amended the constitution to allow for a one-round presidential poll, meaning the winner will not need an absolute majority.

It was a move analysts say could benefit incumbent president Joseph Kabila as he runs for a second term come November.