Constitutional court allows postponement of Congo election to 2018

Congo’s constitutional court has approved a request by the electoral commission to postpone the November election to update voter lists. The controversial move means President Kabila could stay in office until 2018.

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Congo’s ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and other participants in a national dialogue agreed on Monday that presidential, legislative and provincial elections will be held in April 2018.

The national dialogue – which began on September 1 between the PPRD, representatives of civil society and some of the opposition to try to find a way forward – has been attacked by the opposition and foreign bodies as enabling President Joseph Kabila to stay in office beyond his constitutionally prescribed two terms.

Since winning independence from Belgium in 1960, Congo has never had a peaceful, democratic transition of power.

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Presidential, legislative and local elections will be held six months after they are convened on October 30, 2017, the former Togolese prime minister and talks facilitator Edem Kodjo said in a statement.

The leader of the parliamentary group representing Kabila’s PPRD confirmed the announcement.

“The election will be held in 2018,” Ramazani Shadari said, adding that “all the details” of the deal would be disclosed on Tuesday.

The court said there were technical problems with the upcoming vote and authorized what its president, Benoit Lwamba Bindu said was a “reasonable delay.”

The commission must now publish a new electoral calendar for the presidential election, originally scheduled for November 27.

Opposition coalition boycotts talks

The commission originally filed a delay petition to the court in September amid clashes that left dozens dead in the capital after security forces clashed with thousands of anti-government demonstrators.

It has since said elections cannot be organized until the end of 2018. A high court has said that Kabila can stay in office until a new leader is elected.

The country’s main opposition coalition – “Rassemblement” (Gathering) – boycotted the talks and has called for the international community and the United Nations to take an active role with the African Union in bringing about dialogue for holding elections. It has also called for a general strike on Wednesday across the vast central African nation, to give Kabila a “yellow card.”

EU foreign ministers on Monday said the bloc was “deeply concerned by the political situation [and] … strongly condemns the acts of extreme violence.”

jbh/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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