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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 13:26 GMT
Counting starts in DR Congo vote
Voters queue outside a polling station in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Some voters say they will approve the text to preserve the peace
Counting of votes has begun across Democratic Republic of Congo after an unscheduled second day of polling in a referendum on a new constitution.

The electoral commission extended voting at those stations where voting had not been completed on Sunday.

If approved, the draft constitution would pave the way for the country's first democratic poll next year.

Turnout appears to be high in many areas, even parts of the east, dominated by militia groups.

It is too bad we have to vote for a mystery document
Edouardin Mputu, lawyer
Opposition groups have called for a boycott and there seemed to be fewer voters in parts of the south and the capital, Kinshasa.

The electoral commission decided which of the 36,000 stations should reopen on Monday, because not all of the 25m registered voters had been able to cast their votes by the time polling stations closed on Sunday.

Some polling stations lacked the full list of eligible voters, while elsewhere heavy rain hampered the vote.

Ballot boxes were kept overnight under police guard at stations where voting was to resume on Monday.

At those stations where voting was completed on Sunday, counting has already begun but results will not be published until all voting has ended.

Final results are due by the end of the year.

Police

On Sunday, thousands of armed police were stationed at polling centres to make sure there was no violence, helped by members of the 16,000-strong UN peacekeeping force.

The BBC's Nick Miles in Kinshasa says the police were out in force again on Monday.

DR CONGO CONSTITUTION
President limited to two five-year terms
Presidential age limit reduced from 35 to 33
President names prime minister from largest party
Provinces increased from 10 to 26
Same-sex marriage banned

On Sunday, police had to break up a group of youths who were telling people not to vote at one polling station in Kinshasa.

Our correspondent says many Congolese are reluctant to endorse a new constitution drawn up by leaders they hold responsible for the country's prolonged conflict.

But some voters said in spite of reservations about the constitution, they would endorse it so that the country could move on.

Confusion

On Sunday, the electoral commission reported a handful of incidents, including voter intimidation in the Kasai area in the south of the country.

UN soldiers intervened when fights broke out in the eastern town of Goma.

The new constitution would limit the power of the president, give the country's regions more influence and strengthen the judicial system.

But there was confusion about what was in the text. The electoral commission has said it had distributed some 500,000 copies of the constitution around the country in four major Congolese languages - Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Swahili.

"It is too bad we have to vote for a mystery document, but there is nothing else we can do," Edouardin Mputu, a young lawyer, told the AFP news agency.


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