Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila had a 10-point lead on Tuesday over top challenger Etienne Tshisekedi, with election officials due to name a winner later in the day amid fears of violence.
With just over two-thirds of polling centres counted, Kabila, the DRC’s ruler since 2001, had 46.4% of the vote to 36.2% for Tshisekedi.
Observers have warned the November 28 polls, the second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003, could plunge the vast central African country into chaos no matter who is declared the winner.
The tension spilled over on Monday into the Congolese diaspora in Belgium and South Africa, where opposition supporters clashed with police.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was due to release a provisional final count on Tuesday, a result the Supreme Court must then review and make official by December 17. The winner is scheduled to be sworn in on December 20.
But CENI chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda indicated early Tuesday the commission may not make its deadline.
“First of all we’re going to make sure that all the results sheets have arrived and that we have all the information. If not, we won’t be able to give you more than a partial report,” he told journalists at a press conference held in the early hours of Tuesday to announce the latest results.
The CENI had been criticised for releasing figures that came mainly from Kabila strongholds but the latest tally was more geographically balanced.
As counting entered the home stretch, Kabila appeared poised to benefit from January constitutional changes that scrapped two-round elections in favour of a single-round system, with the divided opposition field of 10 candidates splitting more than half the vote.
Tshisekedi has issued thinly veiled threats of violence if early results showing Kabila in the lead are not reversed.
On Saturday, he warned Kabila and Mulunda to “respect the will of the Congolese people”.
“If they don’t, they risk committing suicidal acts,” said the challenger, a prime minister-turned-opponent of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
“I call all our people to stay vigilant so that if needed they can execute the orders I will give them.”
Tshisekedi, who calls his supporters fighters, raised global concern and condemnation during the campaign when he called on his partisans to break into the country’s prisons and free their comrades.
The International Crisis Group has put the country on its “conflict risk alert” together with Syria, citing clashes in Kinshasa on the eve of the polls, deadly rebel attacks in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi on voting day and a call from several opposition candidates for the vote to be annulled.
In central Brussels, scores of angry DRC opposition demonstrators alleging fraud in the elections staged running battles with police Monday, damaging shop windows and cars.
The marchers said they were protesting “Belgium’s blind support of Kabila’s corrupt government”.
Three protesters and a police officer were hurt in the fray, with demonstrators hurling paving stones and other objects at police.
In Johannesburg, police fired rubber bullets to break up a group of demonstrators gathered in front of the ANC headquarters to protest South Africa’s alleged involvement in vote fraud.
In Pretoria, protesters tried to storm the DRC embassy, breaking windows and tearing down a gate. Five people were arrested.
Protests also took place in Cape Town.
In Kinshasa, caravans of large trucks carrying armed police with gas masks could be seen on the streets.
The tense climate drove more than 3 000 people to leave the city at the weekend for Brazzaville, the capital of neighbouring Congo, which sits about 4km across the Congo River.
By Monday the traffic had slowed to around 100, an immigration official said.
A youth group organised a “peace carnival” Monday in the Gombe neighbourhood where the presidential palace is located.
“We have the impression there will be post-election conflicts and we want to avoid that because it’s we the young people who are the first victims,” organiser Josette Baongela (24) said. — AFP