DR Congo opposition rejects bid to postpone poll to 2018

Etienne Tshisekedi (C), an opposition leader in D.R.Congo, is surrounded by journalists as he arrives in Kinshasa (AFP Photo/Eduardo Soteras)
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Kinshasa (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo's main opposition party firmly rejected a deal signed Tuesday which would keep President Joseph Kabila in power until 2018 by postponing this year's presidential vote until April 2018.

The UDPS, led by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, "rejects" the proposal mooted Monday to delay the vote as a "flagrant violation" of the constitution, the party's secretary-general Jean-Marc Kabund told AFP.

The idea was agreed by the authorities and fringe opposition groups taking part in a "national dialogue" held to reduce tensions triggered by fears that Kabila has no intention of stepping down when his mandate ends in December.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the groups that took part in the dialogue gathered for a ceremony in Kinshasa to sign their 24-page accord.

Kabund said the postponement plan "unilaterally imposes Mr Kabila in flagrant violation of the constitution which sets the end of his mandate at December 20."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the election postponement plan was "no response to the crisis".

"There's only one way out of the crisis, and that is for the president (Kabila) to announce that he will not run again, and for an election date to be set," he added.

The plan emerged after the EU threatened sanctions if the country did not hold elections in 2017.

The main opposition coalition -- "Rassemblement" (Gathering) -- has boycotted the "national dialogue" talks, branding them a ploy by Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term.

It has also called for a general strike on Wednesday across the vast central African nation, to give Kabila a "yellow card".

Kabila first took office in 2001, and in 2006 a new constitutional provision limited the presidency to a two-term limit which expires in December.

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