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Tshisekedi supporters in demo for inclusion in electoral bodies

KINSHASA, 22 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Thousands of party supporters of veteran opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi marched through the streets of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday demanding that their Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UPDS) be integrated into the country's election organisational structures.

"Registration for presidential candidates is still not on the agenda for us; above all, we want a political solution that the ambassadors and members of the International Committee to Accompany the Transitional Institutions and the government should take," Serge Mayamba, a UDPS official, said.

Waving tree branches and carrying Tshisekedi effigies, some 5,000 demonstrators - a UDPS estimate - sang as they marched down one of the city's major roads, the June 30 Boulevard, to the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission. They demanded that the UDPS officials be allowed onto the electoral commission and onto the High Media Authority, set up to regulate equal access of all political parties to state broadcast media during the polls.

The demonstrators' demands came a day before the close of registration for legislative and presidential candidates; and after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Tshisekedi. Previously, the UDPS had been demanding that it be allowed late voter registration for its supporters since it had reversed its decision to boycott the polls, the first in nearly 40 years.

Presidential and legislative elections are due on 18 June for the country's 25 million registered voters.

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