KINSHASA: The DR Congo was on tenterhooks on Sunday, awaiting a new date for officials to announce the results of elections to replace Joseph Kabila as president of the volatile central African country.
On Saturday, just hours before Sunday's scheduled announcement of the provisional outcome, the electoral commission announced a delay until next week, without giving a specific date.
Amid fears of vote tampering and calls from world powers for voters' wishes to be respected, commission president Corneille Nangaa said little over half of ballots had been collected.
Insisting the commission should be allowed time to do its work, Nangaa decried what he referred to as "threats" from diplomats over the December 30 polls.
Twenty-one candidates ran in the election to succeed Kabila, who has ruled the vast conflict-ridden country for almost 18 years.
Among the frontrunners were Kabila's handpicked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and two opposition candidates: veteran heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and newcomer Martin Fayulu.
At stake is the political stewardship of a mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Kabila was due to step down two years ago, but clung on to power, sparking widespread protests which were brutally repressed, killing dozens.
The election, preceded by repeated delays, was carried out in a relatively peaceful manner. But tensions have built over the lengthy counting process amid fears the results could be manipulated to install Kabila-backed Shadary in the presidency.
The electoral commission had promised to announce preliminary results on Sunday, followed by a definitive count on January 15. The president was due to be sworn in three days later.
There are fears the delay could stoke tension in the unstable African giant of 80 million people.
Nangaa has blamed the slow count on massive logistical problems in a country the size of western Europe with poor infrastructure.
Since the vote, the authorities have cut internet access and blocked broadcasts by Radio France Internationale, causing widespread frustration.
With international concerns growing over the transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa's largest nation, Western powers have upped the pressure.
The United States and European Union urged Kinshasa to ensure a peaceful change of power.
Donald Trump announced Friday that the United States was sending about 80 troops to Gabon to deploy in the event of election-related unrest in nearby DR Congo.
The African Union, which had sent an 80-member team to monitor the vote, insisted that respecting voters' wishes was "crucial".