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Congo’s Kabila Consolidates Local Control in Governors’ Elections

Allies of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila won 14 of 19 provincial governorships decided on Saturday, the election commission said, shoring up the president’s local support despite calls to step down this year.

The elections, which opposition leaders say were rigged in Kabila’s favor, are expected to solidify the president’s control over local security forces and resources ahead of a presidential election scheduled for November.

Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011, is barred by the constitution from standing for a third elected term, though opposition leaders say he intends to extend his rule.

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The elections were for interim governors voted into new provinces created in July as part of a decentralization initiative. The winners will hold the positions until permanent governors are voted in by new provincial assemblies. But the timing for the creation of the new assemblies is unclear – they were initially scheduled for last October but have been delayed.

Corneille Nangaa, president of the National Independent Electoral Commission, said that independent candidates won the other five governorships. Voting in one province could not be organized on time and a run-off is required in a second.

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Some leading opposition parties declined to field candidates, dismissing the elections as pre-arranged. Candidates from opposition parties that recently defected from the majority were rejected by the courts following objections from the ruling coalition.

Political tensions are high in Congo. At least 40 people were killed in January 2015 during demonstrations against alleged plans by Kabila to extend his rule.

Kabila has declined to comment publicly on his political future and has called for a national dialog to resolve obstacles to holding the elections.