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Congo election: Two men declare themselves president

International observers reject the Congo election results that put President Joseph Kabila on top. His main rival, meanwhile, declares himself president.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / December 11, 2011

Supporters of Congolese president Joseph Kabila take to the streets in celebration in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday, after the electoral commission declared their candidate the winner. Since then, opposition candidates and international observers have rejected the results citing irregularities. The main opposition candidate says he won with 54 percent of the vote.

Jerome Delay/AP

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Congolese police have launched a crackdown in the capital Kinshasa, rounding up Congolese youths from their homes, as opposition candidates and international observers reject Friday's results from recent presidential and parliamentary elections.

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The Carter Center, one of several election observer missions that followed the Nov. 28 elections, said that multiple irregularities in the election and tallying process made them conclude that the election results “lack credibility.” Etienne Tshisekedi, the main opposition candidate, meanwhile, declared himself president, saying that his own party’s vote tallies taken from polling stations showed that he had won with 54 percent of the vote.

“The problem was obviously with the tabulation process,” says David Pottie, mission manager for the Carter Center in Kinshasa, speaking with the Monitor by phone. Among the irregularities: Results from 2,000 separate polling stations in Kinshasa went missing, and some polling stations with improbably high turnout reported 100 percent voter support for the incumbent president. The Carter Center rated 40 percent of the 169 compilation centers around the country as “poor.”

“In our conclusion we find the irregularities are significant enough to undermine the credibility of the election results,” says Mr. Pottie. “But having said that, we don’t have a smoking gun to reveal 1.5 million votes, and to reverse the order of the final results.”

This is not the election that the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo hoped for and deserved. These are the Democratic Republic of Congo’s second set of elections since the fall of the dictatorship of President Mobutu Sese Seko, and a decade-long civil and regional war that killed as many as 5 million Congolese in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

With 19,000 UN peacekeepers on the ground in Congo, there is little chance of a return to outright war. But a failed election in Congo has the potential to extend human suffering in the country, to delay the kind of development that could put Congo on par with other fast-growing African neighbors, and to encourage meddling from its stronger neighbors.

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