Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Kabila set to win Congo election


A Congolese soldier laughs after asking to have his picture taken in a cemetery facing the office of presidential hopeful Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa, Congo, on Monday.


Incumbent Joseph Kabila looks set to win the Democratic Republic of the Congo's presidency with nearly all votes in from a prolonged and tense election that has provoked shootouts between fighters loyal to rival candidates.

Though about 2 million votes of a potential 25.7 million ballots have yet to be included, Kabila's lead over challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba looks almost insurmountable, according to a count of released results.

Bemba's camp has charged that there has been "systematic cheating" in the count.

In a televised address on Monday night, he said, "There's no double-dealing in democracy. All that we want is that the truth of the ballot comes out of these elections which we have worked to make free, democratic and transparent."

Scores of homeless children and others living on the streets of Congo's capital were rounded up on charges that they started a protest that led to weekend violence between supporters of the two candidates in the runoff vote last month.

The candidates' private forces exchanged gun and mortar fire on Saturday in a firefight that killed three civilians and one soldier, Kinshasa's governor said.

The Independent Electoral Commission on Monday night posted results from 99.37 percent of vote-counting centers. The results showed President Joseph Kabila maintaining his commanding lead of some 59 percent of votes counted to 41 percent for Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader.

Commission spokesman Dieudonne Mirimo said they expected to publish the final preliminary results ``very soon

The elections could set Congo on the road to democracy and peace after decades of dictatorship and war, but the violence underlines the transition's fragility.

Bemba's camp on Sunday presented new allegations of vote fraud to electoral officials, and listed some at a news conference on Monday.

While both candidates have pledged to a peaceful outcome, Pastor Theodore Ngoy, spokesman for Bemba's coalition, told reporters that its members would accept the results "if there is no cheating, if the process is transparent and democratic and if these irregularities which we have proved are corrected. If not, Kabila is going to have a hard time governing," he warned.

Results from the first round of voting, in August, provoked clashes in Kinshasa that killed at least 23 people.

Peacekeepers have brought reinforcements into the capital, stepped up patrols and reinforced positions around Bemba's home in a show of force since the weekend confrontation. Riot police have taken up positions guarding strategic buildings.

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