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May 23, 9:54 AM EDT

Congo electoral commission updates voter list



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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- Congo's national electoral commission has updated the country's electoral list ahead of local and provincial elections later this year, the commission said.

Nearly 200,000 voters who had been omitted from 2011 elections were integrated into the new electoral register of more than 30 million people, said Flavien Misoni, executive secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission, known as CENI. The 18-month operation cost about $30 million dollars, he said.

Commission spokesman Jean Pierre Kalamba said that the operation "was intended to reassure the public about the seriousness of the local and provincial elections" before they take place in October 2015.

Experts from the international organization of French-speaking countries have been invited to externally audit the electoral role, the commission said as the ceremony presenting the voter list was aired Friday on national TV and in front of political parties, civic organizations and journalists.

The opposition has said that voters who have turned 18 since 2011 must still be added to the list and the final list is not yet complete. A fringe opposition group is also calling for registration online.

President Joseph Kabila last week called for dialogue with the opposition and all political parties in anticipation of local, provincial, parliamentary and presidential elections that will take place through the end of 2016, his office said in a statement. Presidential elections are slated for November 2016.

Tensions have been rising in Congo over elections.

In January, mass protests erupted against proposed changes to the electoral law, widely seen as a ploy to delay the 2016 presidential elections and to allow President Joseph Kabila to prolong his time in power. Human Rights Watch reported that at least 40 people were killed in the unrest.

Kabila has been president since 2001 and under current law is barred from seeking another term. Elections in 2011 gave Kabila a second term, but the vote was widely criticized as fraudulent.

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