Congo electoral panel promises fair presidential poll but some candidates see flaws

FILE PHOTO: Congo starts voter registration for 2023 general election

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission on Monday said it was ready to provide fair and credible polls next month despite a spiralling security crisis in the east and concerns about transparency in the run-up to the Dec. 20 general election.

Campaigning is scheduled to begin next week after a tense and delayed registration period that opposition candidates deemed flawed and favours the ruling coalition.

Last month, several presidential candidates demanded measures from the commission to prevent potential fraud.

Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) president Denis Kadima met all 26 candidates in the capital Kinshasa on Monday and said the body was committed to organising "credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful" elections.

Kadima said he recognised the commission needed to improve its image and that it had tried to improve public trust, including the clean-up of irregularities that slipped through the registration process.

Just over 43.9 million people are registered to vote.

"We want the provisional (registration) lists to be audited and we would like you to present us with the electoral register," Martin Fayulu, the runner-up in the 2018 election, said at Monday's gathering.

The 2018 vote was marred by allegations of irregularities, including faulty voting machines and delays opening some polling stations.

President Felix Tshisekedi, who is running for a second term, said there had been reports of fraud during the registration process and called on perpetrators to be sanctioned.

"There will be elections on Dec. 20 even though there are many difficulties," Kadima said.

Voting in insecure parts of Congo, where militant activity is rife, could be complicated, Kadima said.

Several candidates said CENI was still not doing enough to protect the vote, calling for more transparency and independent auditors.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo; Writing by Sofia Christensen; editing by Grant McCool)