JOHANNESBURG - Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo counted millions of votes Monday, the day after an election marred by massive irregularities, including alleged errors in the voter roll, technical problems and delayed or missing polling materials.
The poll drew immediate criticism for its lack of organization, allegations of vote-rigging and malfunctioning equipment. While both presidential frontrunners said they were confident of victory, critics said this messy situation was part of the plan all along to keep the ruling coalition firmly in control. President Joseph Kabila has remained in power more than two years past the end of his second term mandate.
Observers from the Catholic Church observation mission said the poll had been relatively calm; but, the mood in the capital was tense, and local media reported that internet access had suddenly been cut for an untold number of residents.
Sunday's vote was originally supposed to take place in 2016 but postponed numerous times due to what officials termed organizational problems.
The most recent delay came when a fire at a Kinshasa election depot destroyed thousands of voting machines. Then, in three districts considered opposition strongholds, the government postponed the election yet again, effectively taking a million people out of the voting process.
In the rainy capital, Kinshasa, some voters said they waited more than five hours Sunday to cast ballots.
"I came to sanction Mr. Kabila, I want to vote for change, but unfortunately, there is no voting, there are no machines, there's nothing," said a young voter, who said his name was Bolungu. "Some people could not even find their names on the list."
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Church officials, who are well respected in Congo because of the Church's large role in propping up the nation's failed infrastructure, said they, too, had seen irregularities.
Nonetheless, opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu was expected to beat Kabila's candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, according to a recent opinion poll.
Fayulu voted Sunday in Kinshasa and said he was confident of victory.
"Can you in all good faith, with what you have seen today, someone serious, can say that Shadary won the election or the presidential election?" he said. "If he wants to dream, let him dream."
Shadary said the same, telling local media he, too, was sure he had won.
Kabila's critics, among them Fayulu, say the chaos was intentional.
Analyst Claude Kabemba, director of the Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Resource Watch, says few analysts think the vote was fair.
The way these elections were organized and the way they happened, it seems to be that it was a planned chaos, and that does not augur well for him (Kabila) as he leaves power," he told VOA in Johannesburg. "And I think he’s going to look back and see the mess he has left behind, and I think he will live with that for many, many years to come.”
Congo's electoral commission is not expected to announce results for several days. The presidential inauguration is scheduled for January 18 -- if a winner is determined by then.