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Electoral Experts to Study Disputed Congo Poll

Supporters of Congo's opposition hold reading 'Kabila !!! you do not deserve DRC's Presidency' during a demonstration against what many say were deeply flawed November elections, in downtown Antwerp, DRC, December 2011. (file photo)

Foreign election experts have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss a possible review of disputed November polls.

The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems say they have dispatched a team to Congo at the request of politicians there.

International observers have said the polls were deeply flawed, especially in the vote-counting process that American observers called "chaotic."

The experts began meeting with Congolese officials on Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa. A statement says the team will study electoral documents and data, and will speak with key officials to determine whether a broader review could verify the results.

The experts also will consider the political environment in which the review would be conducted.

The statement indicated that any review would focus on Congo's legislative elections. Congo's electoral commission has yet to release results of those polls.

The commission declared President Joseph Kabila the winner of the presidential poll, a result that his opponents rejected on grounds of alleged fraud.

Opposition candidates, including Kabila's main rival Etienne Tshisekedi, have charged the election was rigged in the incumbent's favor. Tshisekedi has claimed he won the election and declared himself president.

Rights groups have accused Congolese security forces of killing at least 24 people in post-election protests.

The election experts are expected to be in DRC for about three weeks.

Kenneth Wollack, chief of the National Democratic Institute, cautioned that the team's goal is to study the usefulness of a broader review, not to help Congolese authorities tabulate the results of the legislative polls.