Congo opens polls for long-delayed presidential election

KINSHASA, Congo — People in Congo have begun voting in a long-delayed presidential election that could bring the troubled country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.

Some unrest is feared in the election after a last-minute decision to bar an estimated 1 million people from voting because of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east. The decision has been widely criticized as threatening the credibility of the election.

Two main opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, are challenging President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, the European Union-sanctioned former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Congo’s 40 million registered voters are using electronic voting machines with touch screens for the first time amid opposition concerns that the results could be manipulated. Some Congolese observers have said voting materials didn’t reach some polling stations in time.

At stake is a country rich in minerals including those crucial to the world’s smartphones and electric cars, and yet Congo remains desperately underdeveloped. Corruption and insecurity are widespread.

In the capital, Kinshasa, at the Institut de la Gombe polling station in the center of the city, a few people began to vote. This station is where the ruling party’s candidate, Shadary, and Kabila, are expected to vote. There is a poster at the entrance explaining how to use the electronic voting machines.

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