• President’s opponents say election must be called in September
  • Kabila comments on voter registration suggest delay for poll

Opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo urged supporters to reject the legitimacy of President Joseph Kabila’s government if an election doesn’t take place before December, adding to tensions in Africa’s biggest copper producer.

Kabila, who came to power in 2001 and won elections in 2006 and 2011, is prevented by the constitution from running again. His backers have said that delays in preparations, such as registering voters, make it impossible to hold polls on Nov. 27 as scheduled. Opposition leaders say the electoral commission should push on with the vote, accusing Kabila of stalling to hold onto power.

The election must be called by Sept. 20 to enable a new president to be installed three months later when Kabila’s term ends, opposition leader and presidential front-runner Moise Katumbi said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. “If these constitutional obligations are not respected, the Congolese people must refuse the installation of dictatorship and no longer recognize the regime.”

Katumbi’s statement followed comments made by Kabila on Aug. 4 during a visit to neighboring Uganda that suggested the election will be delayed.

“We have started voter registration on July 31,” he said during a press briefing in western Uganda, footage of which was broadcast by that country’s NBS Television. “It is a process that will take time and as soon as a voter register is available then an electoral calendar will be published.”

Congo’s electoral commission has said that voter registrations could take as long as 16 months. Starting at the end of July could then mean an election wouldn’t be called until November 2017, with the vote taking place in early 2018.

‘Crucial Question’

Kabila rarely speaks in public and is yet to comment publicly on whether he would stand down at the election, as required by the constitution. In a national address on the country’s Independence Day in June, he announced the start of voter registration, but didn’t discuss the timing of the vote.

“We are stunned that Mr. Joseph Kabila would make an announcement on this crucial question in a foreign country, in front of a foreign press and in English,” Freddy Matungulu Mbyamu, a spokesman for La Dynamique, an opposition coalition, said on Aug. 7 of the comments made in Uganda.

Kabila has called for political talks, facilitated by the African Union, to reach an agreement on an election delay. The opposition have largely rejected them.

The president wants to use the talks to create an “illegitimate transitional government to serve their totalitarian ambitions,” Katumbi said.

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