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Congo Opposition Parties Endorse Powerful Ex-governor for President

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

Leading opposition parties in Democratic Republic of Congo endorsed a prominent former governor, Moise Katumbi, for president on Wednesday, hoping to rally support for an alternative to President Joseph Kabila.

The multi-millionaire Katumbi governed Congo's southeastern copper mining heartland from 2007 until last September when he quit Kabila's ruling party, accusing it of plotting to keep the president in power beyond the country's two-term limit.

Kabila, who has ruled since 2001, is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term in an election slated for November, though critics say he is deliberately delaying the poll.

The G7 group of opposition parties, which were dismissed from Kabila's ruling coalition last September after publicly calling on the president to leave office this year, announced their decision to back Katumbi at a convention in the capital

"Moise Katumbi Chapwe presents the ideal profile to assume such leadership and realize the common program in government of the G7," said the moderator Didier Molisho to cheers from a hall packed with supporters.

Katumbi, who has yet to announce his candidacy, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The G7 announcement could galvanize opposition parties to present a united front against Kabila, analysts said. The biggest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, has not said whom it plans to support.

Several local and provincial elections have already been missed, with the government citing logistical and budgetary constraints.

Congo's electoral commission president, Corneille Nangaa, told U.S. radio earlier this month that he would ask the constitutional court for "a small extension" to November's election to update voter rolls.