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Early Congo election results show president winning eastern cities

Monuc/AP - August 8, 2006

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- Congo President Joseph Kabila overwhelmingly won a main eastern city, according to the first citywide results to be compiled from the vast Central African nation's July 30 vote.

Kabila was the choice of 126,974 of 145,629 voters, or about 87 percent, in Goma, electoral official Marie Shemaesi said Tuesday.

The remaining votes were split among two former rebel leaders who became vice presidents under Kabila in a postwar, national-unity government -- Azarias Ruberwa and Jean-Pierre Bemba -- and Pierre Pay Pay, a longtime ally of Congo's last dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Turnout was about 84 percent in Goma, Shemaesi said. Kabila also won heavy support in another eastern town, Beni, she said.

Official, countrywide results may not be announced for weeks. Individual polling stations have been posting their results, but Tuesday's reports from Goma and Beni were the first to compile results from across localities.

Kabila is considered to have strong support in the war-battered east where he was born, but less in the western capital, Kinshasa, where Bemba appears popular.

If none of the 33 candidates win a majority during the initial round of voting in Congo's first multiparty elections for a head of state since 1961, a second round is scheduled for late October between the two top vote-winners. Voters also cast ballots July 30 for a 500-seat national assembly.

A preliminary countrywide tally was expected to be announced August 20, and a final tally August 31. Officials had at first said no partial results would be released, but have backtracked because of the uncertainty fanned by competing camps making claims based on their own compilations.

Both Ruberwa and Bemba have alleged fraud in the vote. Bemba has said he's leading Kabila in many parts of Congo.

The government chosen in the elections will replace a national-unity government arranged in 2002 under peace accords that ended back-to-back wars that began in 1996.

The mineral-rich nation the size of Western Europe has been roiled by wars and corrupt rule since 1960 independence from Belgium. Congo's last multiparty vote for a leader was in 1961. The winner was killed shortly and military regimes took power.

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