Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday went to the polls to elect the president, lawmakers and provincial councilors, following a tense campaign.
Polling stations opened at 6:00 a.m. local time and will close at 5:00 p.m. local time for 44 million eligible voters.
The presidential election is pitting the incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi against 19 other candidates including Moise Katumbi, 58, his main rival, a wealthy businessman who served as governor of Katanga Province – who is running under the Together for the Republic party.
Tshisekedi, 60, took office in 2019 and is seeking a second five-year term to lead sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country. He is considered the favorite to win the election.
He campaigned on the promise of more jobs, ending conflict in the eastern region and more infrastructures once reelected.
Other main challengers include Martin Fayulu, 67, who emerged second in the 2018 presidential elections and Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
More than 100,000 candidates are vying for various positions, with the provisional results expected on Dec. 31.
The government closed its borders and suspended domestic flights at midnight Wednesday.
Several observation missions will be watching the voting process, including from Southern African Development Community nations.
Reports indicated several polling centers did not open on schedule, including in the capital Kinshasa.
But Denis Kadima, head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), assured that any delay would be compensated in order to guarantee an operation of at least 11 hours for each center.
“For the polling stations that will open late, the lost time will be made up. This means that if there are still people in line, people will continue to vote in any case, even if it means going until the next day. We’re not going to go beyond one day,” Kadima told national television RTNC.