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Opposition politician ends boycott of upcoming polls

KINSHASA, 3 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi reversed on Monday his call for a boycott of general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), due in 2006.

Tshisekedi, leader of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), had repeatedly called for a boycott of the constitutional referendum on 18-19 December as well.

He said that his party was fundamentally opposed to constitution, which amounted to selling the country to foreigners. This appeared to be a reference to a clause in the document granting citizenship to people who settled in the country before independence in 1960.

Tshisekedi's call for the electorate to stay away from the referendum went unheeded, however, as nearly 25 million people registered and voter turnout was high.

The final ruling on the results of the constitutional referendum is still pending, although the Independent Electoral Commission, which conducted the polls, has said that so far of 88 percent of the ballots cast, 78 percent were "yes" votes.

Faced with such overwhelming public support of the constitution, the UDPS may have found it politically expedient to reverse its stand.

"The UDPS, faced with its responsibilities before God and history, intends to lead the Congolese people, who want peace and change, to final victory in the elections," Tshisekedi told reporters in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

A government headed by one president and four vice-presidents has run the DRC since the end of a five-year civil war in 2003.

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