The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it is delaying Sunday’s presidential election in three of the country’s cities until March due to insecurity and the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
The decision effectively nullifies the voting in those areas as the new president is due to be sworn in next month.
President Joseph Kabila was due to step down two years ago but the Congolese elections have been repeatedly delayed.
Last week the electoral commission announced another one week postponement after admitting it was not yet ready – the decision was condemned by some opposition politicians.
Some in the opposition called it a ploy to hurt their chances at the polls, with more than 1 million voters affected.
The election in and around Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province, and Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe province, will be in March instead, the commission’s statement said.
That’s long after Congo’s “definitive” presidential election results are set to be announced on Jan. 15, with the inauguration three days later.
Congo’s election has been delayed for more than two years, leading to sometimes deadly protests.
Opposition parties have said they will not accept further delays of the vote to choose a successor to long-time President Joseph Kabila.
The election already had been pushed from Dec. 23 to Sunday after a fire in the capital, Kinshasa, destroyed voting materials.
“This is completely inacceptable,” presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, the leader of an opposition coalition, told The Associated Press after the latest delay. “We campaigned in those territories, life has not stopped. … We cannot erase 1.2 million voters just like that.”
Fayulu and seven other opposition candidates on Tuesday accused the electoral commission of being “determined to organize chaotic elections.” The commission’s president, Corneille Nangaa, on Monday said the election would take place on Sunday unless “there is a war and nobody can go out and vote.”
Parts of eastern Congo, where the Ebola outbreak has become the second deadliest in history, face the daily threat of deadly attacks from rebel groups.
The insecurity has hurt efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, which since being declared on Aug. 1 has seen 583 cases of the virus, including more than 300 confirmed deaths.
While Yumbi has no Ebola cases, according to Congo’s health ministry, the commission said “deadly incidents” on Dec. 14-15 caused massive population displacement and destroyed all election materials there when its local office was pillaged.
The delay is sure to cause further frustration particularly in Beni, where rebel attacks have killed more than 1,500 people in the past four years.
While the region has voted for Kabila in past elections, anger at the government has been rising over the persistent insecurity.
Kabila, though stepping aside, has chosen former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as the ruling party candidate and his preferred successor.
Written by AP