KINSHASA.Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
were still going to polling stations yesterday for the second
day of a poll where most politicians hope they will approve a
new, post-war constitution.
In the 11 provinces of the vast central African country,
people were voting in places "where it wasn’t possible to
deal with the long queues on Sunday", an official with the
Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) said.
The referendum, which has already been passed by an interim
parliament, is a key step in restoring peace and democracy to
a country that began emerging from its last devastating
conflict in 2003, and should pave the way for elections.
The polling stations that reopened yesterday because of a
very high turnout will be closed at 2:00 pm, "the time from
when the vote count will start, with the immediate posting of
results on the spot," CEI president Apollinaire Malu Malu
The capital Kinshasa in the west is more than 1 300
kilometres from the big towns on the DRC’s volatile eastern
borders, which means there are two time zones with an hour’s
Malu Malu said that those unable to vote during the high
turnout on Sunday, which followed a mammoth operation to
register some 24,5 million people in a nation with few roads
and battered infrastructure, can "go to any polling station
still open today".
President Joseph Kabila and former rebels, once backed by
neighbouring nations, who have been part of his transitional
government since 2003 are very keen on a "yes" vote, as is
the CEI, while Belgium, the former colonial power said to do
otherwise would be "collective suicide".
The vote is the first of real significance since independence
in 1960 for a nation rich in precious minerals and other
natural resources that has endured a long, thieving
dictatorship, two recent wars, and considerable foreign
On Sunday, turnout was highest in eight provinces, according
to the CEI, which declared itself "satisfied overall" with
progress in the vote on a text that would change the
political system and also divide the country into smaller
But in Kasai Occidental and Kasia Oriental, two central
provinces where there is support for Etienne Tshisekedi, a
veteran opposition politician who has been in and out of old
regimes, people appeared initially to have followed his
boycott call, observers indicated. Turnout on Sunday was also
low in Kinshasa. Malu Malu said no results would be announced
anywhere until the evening.
The final outcome is not expected for several days.
The world’s biggest UN peacekeeping force of 18 600 troops,
civilians and police has been helping the transitions that
begun on the basis of first peace accords in 2002 and
Sunday’s poll went smoothly and well, according to electoral
officials and observers.
But 35 000 of 40 000 planned polling stations opened and a
lot of them got off to a late start, so the vote was extended
The night was quiet and 18 000 police have been deployed to
keep an eye on the process, while the borders are closed.
The proposed constitution provides for a president elected by
universal suffrage for a once-renewable five-year term, with
a bicameral parliament whose members will also have five-year
A number of small but vociferous political opposition parties
have formed a de facto coalition of "no" campaigners.
They object mainly to what they say are insufficient
parliamentary powers and plans to give the country 25 largely
autonomous provinces, plus a federal capital territory.
Political analysts warn that a "no" vote could be a
catastrophic setback on the path to democracy in the former
Zaire, because at its worst, it could mean a renegotiation
from scratch of power-sharing arrangements and peace deals
that led to the withdrawal of troops from half a dozen
African countries that got embroiled in the 1998-2003 war.