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Congo heads for run-off as Kinshasa votes drip in

Monuc/Reuters - August 17, 2006 3:19 PM

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo looked set for a presidential runoff vote on Thursday as early poll results from the capital dragged President Joseph Kabila's tally below the 50 percent needed for a first-round win.

Results have been trickling in from across the vast central African country since the July 30 vote, with Kabila performing strongly in his native east and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba doing better in the west around the capital Kinshasa.

Kabila had been leading with more than 50 percent of votes counted, but results from one of four of Kinshasa's compilation centres released on Thursday dragged his running total to 48.4 percent, well ahead of Bemba on 16.2 percent, with numbers in from just over half the constituencies nationwide.

"It's not done and dusted but looks pretty certain that there will be a second round now," one diplomat told Reuters. "Kabila will lose ground with each Kinshasa centre."

Kabila, a native of the Swahili-speaking east who took over the presidency when his father was murdered in 2001, is unpopular in mainly Lingala-speaking Kinshasa.

Political analysts say most votes in the city will have gone to Bemba and other candidates from the 32-strong field.

Kinshasa accounts for 3 million of the total 25 million registered voters, and elections specialists say turnout in the chaotic city was around 80 percent.

One of the international election observers monitoring the poll told Reuters their indicators pointed to Kabila winning less than 50 percent of the overall vote, setting up a second round against Bemba.

The election was organised with assistance from the world's biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission and funded by the international community to the tune of $450 million.
The polls are designed to draw a line under a 1998-2003 war which triggered one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, which continues in eastern Congo where armed militia still rape and murder.

More than 4 million people have died as a result of the conflict, mostly through hunger and disease.

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