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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 04:05 GMT 05:05 UK
Counting begins in Congo election
By John James
BBC News, Brazzaville

Voters look for their names on electoral lists in Brazzaville
Many people said they had not received their voting cards
Counting has begun in the Republic of Congo after a day of voting in the first round of parliamentary elections.

Early indications are that the turnout was low, with the electoral commission saying mistakes had been made.

The commission says it will take at least a week before the results of this election are known.

Some 40 parties boycotted the poll, saying it was aimed at shoring up President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who has ruled the state for 23 years.

'Incompetence'

In a short press conference in Brazzaville after casting his vote, Mr Sassou-Nguesso warned people against prejudging the election before the results were published.

What is clear is that many people were unable to vote because they had not received their electoral cards or because they were not on the electoral roll.

In the remote northern town of Impfondo, observers said some voting stations could not open because they had neither electoral rolls nor ballot papers.

Several people produced electoral cards accidentally printed for children and many - including the president - had their birthdays incorrectly printed on the electoral roll.

Opposition parties campaigned for the vote to be delayed.

In at least one constituency, Mossendjo in the western province of Niari, candidates and election officials called off the ballot until all the materials are in place, probably in a few days time.

"We can talk about incompetence, but we can also talk about a deliberate attempt not to organise good elections," said Roger Owoko, the head of Congo's OCDH human rights organisation, which has been monitoring the elections.

"We can't imagine that with the knowledge we have of organising elections, that we make even worse mistakes than at the last election in 2002."

Analysts say they expect candidates loyal to the president to maintain their control of the national assembly.

Those candidates who have not gained a majority of the votes cast in their constituencies will face a second round run-off in a month's time.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Republic of Congo
16 Jun 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Republic of Congo
16 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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