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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 10:22 GMT
DR Congo poll deadline extended
Polling station
DR Congo's infrastructure has been wrecked by war and misrule
The Democratic Republic of Congo's deadline to register candidates for June elections has been extended.

By Thursday, the original deadline, only 100 people had paid the $250 fee to run for the 500-seat parliament.

The 10-day extension came as the European Union approved plans to deploy hundreds of troops to reinforce UN peacekeepers ahead of the polls.

The election is to be the first multi-party poll in 45 years, ending a post-war transitional period.

On Thursday, transitional President Joseph Kabila registered to stand in the presidential election.

Ten opposition candidates have also come forward but two key players remain absent - an election commission official said the process should be "inclusive".

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Registered:
President Joseph Kabila
Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, former rebel leader
Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, standing for Mobutu's PRM party
Pierre Pay Pay, ex-finance minister and central bank governor under Mobutu
Not registered:
Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa, former rebel leader
Etienne Tshisekedi, veteran opposition leader

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in the capital, Kinshasa, says the Congolese people want elections but some important players do not seem ready and are imposing conditions for their participation.

On Wednesday, thousands of supporters of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi demonstrated in Kinshasa, demanding that registration be reopened to allow them to take part in the polls.

Mr Tshisekedi is one of the high-profile politicians still to formally submit his papers and pay the non-refundable $50,000 registration fee.

Having boycotted earlier stages of the electoral process, his party is not represented on the electoral commission.

Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa of the RCD, formerly a Rwandan-supported rebel group, has not yet registered despite being expected to stand.

He is unhappy about constituency borders in parts of the east, where he has much of his support.

Jean-Pierre Bemba of the former Ugandan-backed MLC rebels has submitted his papers and paid the deposit.

There is one female candidate: Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, a former governor of Kinshasa, who is standing on behalf of the former ruling PRM party, founded by ex-President Mobutu Sese Seko.

Travel problems

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is visiting DR Congo, has urged President Kabila and others to make the voting as free and fair as possible.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila succeeded his father who was assassinated in 2001

He Annan also said the polls pose "major logistical challenges, if not nightmares".

After years of war and misrule, there is little infrastructure in a country the size of Western Europe.

There are no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other, which has made it difficult for parliamentary candidates to get to Kinshasa, where they are required to register to stand in the elections.

Mr Annan later said the difficulties "should not be insurmountable - if the will is there, and the leaders put the interest of the nation and the people ahead of short-term concerns."

The world's largest United Nations peacekeeping force - nearly 17,000 troops - is tasked with ensuring the elections go smoothly.

The EU's German-led force will be deployed shortly before the polls and will stay for up to four months.

Some 450 soldiers will be based in the capital, Kinshasa, with another 1,000 on standby outside DR Congo.

The plan was approved at a two-day summit in Brussels. At least 10 EU countries are expected to take part in the mission.

In the east of the country, hostilities between rival militias and government forces continue to force hundreds of thousands of displaced people from their homes.




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