monuc.org: Observers call Congo vote counting chaotic ::: 08/08/2006: "KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- An unmarked ballot wafts in the breeze. Congolese election workers doze. Pieces of concrete weigh down stacks of vote tally sheets, keeping them from blowing away.
A week after Congo's presidential elections unfolded in relative peace, experts say the disorder and chaos that has long hobbled the Central African country is creeping into the tallying -- raising questions about the fairness of the outcome.
'There was widespread chaos at counting centers,' said Human Rights Watch's Anneke Van Woudenberg, one of nearly 2,000 international observers in Congo for the election and vote count. 'There's a possibility for significant tampering.'
Suspect results could be used as an excuse for war, particularly as several candidates are former rebels with personal militias. Some candidates already are alleging fraud, and the seeming disorder at ballot-collecting centers could give their accusations momentum among Congo's 58 million people.
The July 30 elections were meant to end a transitional government led by President Joseph Kabila, who arranged the national unity administration in 2002 to halt six years of near-constant war. Turnout was 80 percent of the 25 million registered voters.
Riots have broken out in some places since the vote because the election commission has had trouble paying its workers. Observers also have complained about limits on voting monitors, poor security at counting centers and a lack of oversight.
"There are some difficulties. We're missing materials. We have no transportation. It's hard and the conditions are terrible," said Guy Mukadi Nkongolo, a worker at one of dozens of centers where votes are being tallied, cross-checked and baled for storage.
"But we're patient. Even if we have some small imperfections, for me it's OK," the 30-year-old Nkongolo said.
The vote was the first democratic balloting for a leader since independence in 1960 in a country long wracked by wars and corrupt rule. The United Nations and international partners spent more than a half-billion dollars arranging the vote -- a massive undertaking in a country half the size of Europe with few roads and unreliable telephone and electric services.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center has said some ballots have been left unattended and that a fire destroyed election materials in at least one collection center. The monitoring group said electoral authorities should let party officials and the public scrutinize results to quell any fears of fraud.
"There have been some serious problems and remedial steps need to be taken so that the public can verify the results," said Colin Stewart, co-director of the Carter Center's 58 election observers.
The votes were counted on balloting day in each of 46,000 polling centers nationwide. Now they're being tallied a second time at 62 offices across the country.
The final tally is expected to be made public August 20. It had been announced that regional counting centers would begin posting partial tallies Monday, but by Monday afternoon there was no sign of those results.
At one center in the capital, Kinshasa, bales of counted ballots lay piled under trees, while completed tally sheets were held down with chunks from a crumbling wall. One worker used the baled ballots as a footrest, another took an afternoon nap on discarded ballot boxes.
At least one unmarked ballot lay twisting on the ground in the breeze, just a few feet from a pile of yet-to-be-verified votes.
U.N. peacekeepers guarded the center, their automatic rifles propped against a log.
Some say such scenes must be taken in context.
"We believe the counting is going fine," says Robert Osubi Kiwutsi, the head of the vote-counting process at the Independent Electoral Commission.
"Congo isn't the United States, but even there they had problems," he says, noting the problems after the 2000 U.S. presidential elections.
Despite the difficulties of holding a vote in such a vast, war-ravaged country, election day passed relatively peacefully. Voting was pushed to a second day in two central provinces where 11 polling stations were burned down by protesters, and militias set fire to a village in eastern Congo after residents left to vote.
Electoral officials are optimistic that Congolese will accept the results of the vote count.
"To us it is a miracle that we have arrived to this stage in peace," said Kiwutsi. "Five years ago this country was in war." "
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I am busy, but here is an article from AP that seems accurate from what I have been hearing/reading.
Posted by TheMalau at 6:19 AM
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