KINSHASA, 22 Dec 2005 (CPP) - Congolese participating in their first free elections in forty years massively voted "yes" in a referendum on the future Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
During a press conference in Kinshasa, Apollinaire Malu Malu, president of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), announced that, according to partial results, 82,91% of votes tallied so far had been cast for "yes", against 17,09% for "no".
The participation rate was estimated to be around 60% of all registered voters nationwide.
People living in regions east on the country, the area most affected by the war and continuing violence, seemed to have voted in larger numbers for "yes" with partial results nearing 90% in Katanga, South Kivu, Nort Kivu and Maniema.
The vote was applauded by the international community which noted that the referendum was held in a relatively calm environment and seemed to have been free and transparent.
The American president George W Bush congratulated the Congolese people on Monday "for their deep desire to embrace democracy as demonstrated by the nationwide vote for a new constitution on December 18-19".
These elections are the first in a series that will lead to legislative, presidential and local elections set to take place in 2006.