Congo opposition candidate says still time for democracy

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A Congolese opposition candidate said Tuesday there is time to save democracy in the Central African nation if elections are held on time and efforts by the president to stay in power are rejected.

Moise Katumbi said efforts by President Joseph Kabila and the ruling party to stall November presidential elections to hold onto power amount to high treason.

"On September 20, 2016, the electoral body must be convened as it is written in the constitution. On December 20, 2016, a new president of the republic must come into office," he said in a statement from Brussels. He was medically evacuated from Congo in May after tear gas was used outside his court hearing.

"If these constitutional obligations are not met, the Congolese people will reject the dictatorship and not recognize this regime," Katumbi said. "We do hope that the international community will do the same."

The statement comes after Kabila, who hasn't publicly addressed his political future, spoke last week for the first time about the election timeline. "Until we have a voter register and as soon as the voter register is available, then an electoral calendar will be published," he said.

Katumbi said Kabila's comments show a willingness to stay in power at all costs.

Voter registration began July 31. The electoral commission has said it will be difficult to organize elections on schedule by Nov. 27.

"There is still time to save democracy ... and for President Kabila to leave successfully," Katumbi said.

Katumbi, the ex-governor of Katanga and president of one of Africa's top soccer teams, TP Mazembe, resigned from the ruling party last year.

In June, authorities sentenced him to three years in prison in absentia on allegations of falsely acquiring a building. He is also accused of hiring mercenaries.

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