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Congo election delay becoming more likely

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A last-minute delay in the election appears to be likely, according to several separate diplomatic sources in Kinshasa. The sources, who wished the remain anonymous given the insistence by the election commission that elections will be held on Nov. 28, said that it would extremely difficult to deploy all necessary materials on time. However, one of the diplomats suggested that the commission thinks it will be less controversial to present the various actors with a fait accompli: a brief delay of the polls.

However, other sources, including the election commission and the UN peacekeeping mission, believe it is still possible to hold elections on time. 

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The logistical task for the election commission is daunting. The last election materials are reportedly arriving today or tomorrow and have to be distributed to 210 distribution centers. The United Nations has mobilized its substantial fleet of airplanes and helicopters, but the materials will have to be distributed to 64,000 polling centers. In addition, the Congolese government has been able to obtain crucial support from both the Angolan and South African governments, who are deploying aircraft to the country, as well. 

If the elections are indeed postponed, it could create unrest, depending on how the UDPS and other opposition parties react to the news. The main opposition party has been adamant that elections be held on schedule and that results be announced by Dec. 6, when Kabila's constitutional mandate expires. However, some UDPS officials have in private suggested that they could accept a very short delay, as long as elections are held by Dec. 6. It is not clear if this view is shared by the entire leadership.

Crucially, on Friday the Comité national de médiation du processus électorale was set up in Kinshasa,  a "group of wise men" that is supposed to mediate in case of electoral unrest. The group is composed of seven Congolese civil society and religious leaders.

– Jason Stearns blogs about the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region at Congo Siasa.