Voters in the Congo are heading to polling stations Thursday after the electoral body extended the general election by another day because of delays in the delivery of polling materials to various voting stations.
At least 31% of stations did not open on time while voting was interrupted at 45% of the stations after electronic voting devices malfunctioned, according to a preliminary report by the Election Observation Mission of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC).
The report indicated that 7.84% of stations recorded violence, including 5.88% which were ransacked.
In Bunia, the capital of the eastern province of Ituri, those displaced by war destroyed several electoral kits after being angry at not being able to vote.
Denis Kadima, the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), told reporters the “polling stations that were not able to open on Wednesday as planned, have another day this Thursday to receive voters.”
“Moreover, for the stations that opened no matter how late it may be, they will only close after the last voter leaves.”
Meanwhile opposition presidential candidates complained that the election was marred by “irregularities,” a claim denied by the electoral body.
Martin Fayulu, one of the main challengers, Denis Mukwege and others, demanded a new organization of elections with an electoral commission “differently composed.”
Moise Katumbi, another main contender, denounced the electoral process and said it was “conducted in a chaotic manner and ending in confusion.”
But despite the incidents, the government “congratulated the Congolese for their mobilization to participate in the elections” which it said took place throughout the country and “strongly” condemned acts of vandalism.
Voters went to the polls Wednesday to elect the president, lawmakers and provincial councilors, following a tense campaign.
Polling stations opened at 6 a.m. local time and closed at 5 p.m. for 44 million eligible voters.
The presidential election is pitting President Felix Tshisekedi against 19 candidates, including Katumbi, 58, his main rival, a wealthy businessman who served as governor of Katanga Province. He 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.
He campaigned on the promise of more jobs, ending conflict in the eastern region and more infrastructures once reelected.
Other challengers include Fayulu, 67, who emerged second in the 2018 presidential elections and Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
More than 100,000 candidates are vying for positions, with provisional results expected Dec. 31.
The government closed the borders and suspended domestic flights at midnight Wednesday.
Several observation missions will be watching the process, including Southern African Development Community nations.