July 5, 2006

Congo election candidates call for halt to campaign

KINSHASA (Reuters) - More than half the presidential
candidates for Congo's landmark elections this month have
called for the suspension of campaigning in a row over the
printing of millions of extra ballot papers.

Nineteen candidates said the printing and distribution of
an extra five million ballot papers, which are meant to replace
those that could be lost or destroyed, put the credibility and
transparency of the July 30 poll in danger.

"We demand the suspension of campaigning while all the
irregularities in the electoral process are dealt with," the
candidates said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

The extra ballot papers should be publicly destroyed as
there was no guarantee of where they had ended up or that they
would not be used to rig the election, the candidates added.

Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential and
parliamentary vote would be the vast country's first free
election in over 40 years.

The poll is meant to draw a line under Congo's last war, a
1998-2003 conflict that sucked in six neighboring countries and
has killed four million people. There are 33 candidates running
for president.