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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Long wait after landmark Congo poll
By Joseph Winter
BBC News website, Kinshasa

First results from Sunday's landmark elections in DR Congo being published outside a polling stations
Official results are not expected for at least three weeks

The first results from Sunday's landmark elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being published outside some of the 50,000 polling stations around this vast country.

And yet the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) says official results will not be published for up to another three weeks.

The CEI says it will take this long to gather together the results from across a country two-thirds the size of Western Europe with just 300 miles of paved roads.

It says it does not want to publish partial results for the presidential vote in case these are misleading.

Cooling-off

DR CONGO POLLS
Posters in Kinshasa
32 presidential candidates
9,709 parliamentary candidates
25.6m voters
50,000 polling stations
260,000 electoral staff

Some Congolese approve of the delay, saying it will give people a cooling-off period and avoid the outbreak of violence feared in this country emerging from years of conflict and misrule.

"The city was really tense," said Aime, a businessman. "This period will let people calm down."

But others are not convinced.

"The delay is only to give the mafia time to cook the results," said one man angrily outside a Kinshasa polling station, where he had gone to check the results.

"If everything is above board, why wait?" he asked.

Complaints

Inside the polling station, the election officials were even more upset than those waiting for the results.

"I have been inside this classroom since Saturday at 1700," said one woman, who was trying to rest on the cardboard voting booths, unfolded and spread out on the hard floor.

The delay is one of Kabila's tricks to manipulate the figures
Kabasu Babu Katulondi
RCD Secretary General

They had finished counting around midnight on Sunday and had since been filling in all the various forms - in quadruplicate.

"I am tired and I have not had anything to eat for two days," she complained, her eyes bloodshot from a lack of sleep. "The CEI should have provided us with food."

The presiding officer at another polling station nearby threatened to not publish the results or even burn the ballot papers because they had not yet been paid.

Expected

VOTERS' VIEWS
Congolese describe their election hopes and fears

Nevertheless, he showed us the results from his polling station, which mirrored those of others we visited.

Former rebel leader and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba has a massive lead with some 60% of the votes cast in those few areas of Kinshasa.

He had been expected to do well in the capital.

Voters relax at outside bars
Some voters approve of the delay

Trailing in second place is President Joseph Kabila with around 20%. He, however, is expected to do better in parts of eastern DR Congo, worst affected by the war, which he is credited with ending.

It is still far from clear whether a second round will be required, or whether a candidate will gain the 50% of the votes needed to win outright.

But many presidential candidates will be wondering whether all the effort and expense was worth it.

More than half of the 33 candidates on the ballot paper received not a single vote of the 200 or so cast in the polling stations we went to.

Crying foul

While the CEI and most election observers are hugely relieved that the elections themselves passed off peacefully in the main, some opposition parties are already crying foul.

Officials counting votes in Yolo North, western Kinshasa
Votes are being counted after the first multi-party election in 40 years

The former rebel RCD party of Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa says there was "widespread fraud".

RCD Secretary General Kabasu Babu Katulondi said RCD representatives had been chased out of polling stations when counting started, while ruling PPRD officials had been caught trying to vote more than once.

"The delay is one of Kabila's tricks to manipulate the figures," he said.

However, Thomas Luaka from Mr Bemba's MLC party, presumably rather pleased with the initial indications, said that while he "deplored some incidents, overall, the elections went well".

He was also relaxed about the delay, pointing out that the various political parties would be able to announce their own results based on reports from their representatives around the country.

CEI official Carole Kabanga Kaoy said she could not comment on the allegations of fraud until she had received official reports, saying that is where each party is free to provide evidence of irregularities.

Sunday may have passed off relatively well but DR Congo's hopes of a smooth transition into a new democratic era remain in the balance.

Click on the links below to read BBC reporters' logs from the election campaign




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