DR Congo delays election results
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in limbo as the government dispatched helicopters to the remote corners of the country to pick up missing tally sheets, and officials announced a 48-hour delay in the publication of election results from last week's disputed presidential ballot.
The threat of unrest hung over this troubled capital and international airlines cancelled their flights, as violence was feared.
The delay was all but inevitable following an election that was marred by massive technical glitches, including the late delivery of ballots, some of which did not reach polling stations until three days after the vote was supposed to take place.
Even though it was clear that the election commission was not prepared for last week's ballot, the government rushed ahead with the election because the current president's five-year term expired at midnight on Tuesday.
The 48-hour delay means that President Joseph Kabila will be staying in office past his legal mandate, and analysts worry that the country could slide into a situation of unconstitutional power which could stoke tension in DR Congo.
"As we haven't yet been able to receive the tally sheets from all 60,000 polling stations in the country, we decided to push back the publication by 48 hours," said Matthieu Mpita, the spokesman of the National Independent Electoral Commission. "It was our objective to make the deadline", he said, "but we need all the elements".
On state television, the presenter interrupted the coverage of a football match to read a statement from the commission announcing the 48-hour delay which it said was for the sake of the transparency of the election.
Earlier, officials said that helicopters had been sent to retrieve tally sheets from the distant corners of this enormous country where only 2% are paved. The helicopters might succeed in bringing back the votes from the bush, but even in the capital poll workers were still far from done.
DR Congo is staging only its second democratic election and the process has been flawed at every step, from the late printing and delivery of ballots, to the chaotic counting centrs where trucks were dumping containers filled with ballots and frequent power cuts interrupted the entry of data.
More than three million people registered to vote in the capital, Kinshasa, and observers say that only two of the four vote tabulation centres there had finished compiling results by Tuesday afternoon. Even at those two hubs, poll workers had misplaced results from hundreds of polling stations, said observers.