A presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to take place on Sunday has been delayed until 30 December, the country’s electoral commission has announced, citing problems caused by a recent fire that destroyed 80% of the voting machines in the capital, Kinshasa. The delay to the election, already postponed repeatedly since 2016, will anger supporters of the DRC’s fractured opposition and dismay observers who hoped it would bring a measure of security to the country. It is also likely to raise tensions and could prompt significant protests. Corneille Nangaa, the head of the electoral commission, said officials have found enough voting machines for Kinshasa but had to get 5 million new ballots printed. Nangaa called on the country of some 40 million voters for calm.
The DRC’s outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, refused to leave office at the end of his second term in 2016 and only reluctantly agreed not to stand this time round. The country’s constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms.
Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister and Kabila loyalist, is standing for the ruling coalition instead.
Kabila has been in power since 2001 and the election would be the DRC’s first democratic transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Opposition candidates have warned any delay would be unacceptable.
“The CENI [election commission] president said there will be an election, rain or shine, on 23 December,” said Martin Fayulu, one of the two leading opposition candidates. “We cannot accept a change of Mr Nangaa’s position today.”