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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 17:51 GMT
DR Congo vote may get extension
Voters queue outside a polling station in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Some voters say they will approve the text to preserve the peace
Polling stations have closed across the Democratic Republic of Congo after a referendum on a new constitution.

If it is approved, the text would pave the way for the country's first democratic poll in June, after decades of despotic rule and conflict.

Early indications suggest a high turnout in many areas, except the east where many areas are dominated by armed groups outside government control.

The Electoral Commission says polling there may have conclude on Monday.

It is too bad we have to vote for a mystery document
Edouardin Mputu, lawyer

The BBC's Nick Miles in Kinshasa 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.

Voting in DR Congo's first democratic vote for four decades took place at almost 40,000 polling stations across the country, large parts of which are inaccessible by road.

The referendum was accompanied by a big security operation with armed police patrolling in the main cities, helped by members of the 16,000-strong UN peace keeping force.

The electoral commission has 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. But voting elsewhere has been peaceful, our correspondent says.

'Too much'

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

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

But there was confusion about what was in the text. Details of the charter have not been circulated even in parts of the capital.

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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