Congo constitutional court allows election delay

Congo's electoral commission filed a delay petition to the court in September. It has since said elections likely cannot be organized until the end of 2018, raising concerns that tensions and violence will rise.

REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo
Supporters of Congolese President Joseph Kabila carry his portrait photographs during a pro-government rally in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa July 29, 2016.

Congo's constitutional court on Monday approved a controversial request by the electoral commission to postpone November elections so voter registration lists can be updated.

Constitutional Court President Benoit Lwamba Bindu said the court recognized there are technical problems and authorized a "reasonable delay." It said the commission must publish a new electoral calendar for the presidential elections originally scheduled for Nov. 27.

Congo's electoral commission filed a delay petition to the court in September. It has since said elections likely cannot be organized until the end of 2018, raising concerns that tensions and violence will rise.

President Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down in December after his constitutional mandate ended following two terms in office. The opposition has said that Kabila is attempting to hold onto power by delaying the elections. A high court has said that Kabila can stay in office until a new leader is elected.

Dozens died in the capital in September after security forces clashed with thousands of anti-government demonstrators.

Also Monday, the ruling party and other participants in a national dialogue agreed on a resolution that presidential, legislative and provincial elections should be held in April 2018, a decision that will likely be challenged by the country's main opposition parties which have boycotted the talks.

Congo's main opposition parties have called for the international community and the United Nations to take a more active role with the African Union in bringing about a credible and inclusive dialogue on holding elections, calling for an Oct. 19 protest if progress isn't made.

The opposition parties have also called for restructuring the electoral commission and the Constitutional Court, saying they are partisan to Kabila.

Since Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960, there hasn't been a peaceful, democratic transition of power.

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