|KINSHASA. -The Internet has been shut down in key cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo a day after the presidential election.
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu’s campaign team accused the government of ordering the shutdown to avoid broadcasting their candidate’s “overwhelming victory”.
Telecoms minister Emery Okundji said he was unaware of the situation. Observers have complained of widespread irregularities during the poll.
Counting is under way for the vote, but provisional results are not expected until 6 January.
The electoral commission said voting could not take place in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo because of a deadly Ebola outbreak in the region. Voting was also called off in the western city of Yumbi because of insecurity there.
Earlier, DRC main competitors were claiming victory as vote count continued. Any disputed outcome could lead to a repeat of the violence that followed the 2006 and 2011 elections and a wider security breakdown, particularly along Congo’s borders with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, where dozens of armed militia are active.
Vital Kamerhe, the campaign manager to opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, said early counting showed Tshisekedi and the other main opposition candidate Martin Fayulu neck-and-neck in the lead, both with over 40 percent of the vote.
The election is a first-past-the-post system with no run-off.
The current President, Joseph Kabila, is stepping down after 17 years in office. He has promised DR Congo’s first orderly transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
The run-up to the poll was hit by controversy over the exclusion of some 1.26 million out of an electorate of nearly 40 million from voting.
Nehemie Mwilanya, President Kabila’s chief of staff and a member of Shadary’s campaign, told a news conference on Monday morning that he was confident Shadary had won, although he did not provide specific figures.
“For us, victory is certain,” Mwilanya said.
Fayulu’s camp has not yet provided specific numbers but Fayulu said late on Sunday that Shadary’s camp was “dreaming” if it thought it was going to win.
The most recent opinion poll before the election, released by New York University’s Congo Research Group on Friday, showed Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, leading the race on 47 percent.
Tshisekedi had 24 percent and Shadary 19 percent.
The first partial results are expected from the national electoral commission (CENI) on Tuesday.
Election day was mostly peaceful despite several violent incidents, including an altercation at a polling place in eastern Congo in which at least three people were killed.
More than 1.2 million Congolese were also unable to vote in three opposition strongholds, where the CENI cancelled the poll last week, citing an ongoing Ebola outbreak and ethnic violence.
However, in the Ebola hotspot of Beni, an opposition stronghold, residents staged a mock presidential election to show the authorities a decision to postpone the vote there due to health fears was unfounded. – BBC/Reuters/HR