For a while it looked as if the Democratic Republic of Congo might actually hold an election on December 23rd. Photos of electronic voting machines being shipped by boat and bicycle to remote polling stations spread though social media. The electoral commission held press conferences where it insisted that it was ready. Joseph Kabila, the president, promised that the elections would be “perfect”.
But on December 13th a warehouse in Kinshasa (the country’s rambling capital) went up in flames and some 8,000 voting machines were destroyed. Opposition politicians were quick to blame Mr Kabila for sabotaging the elections. He has been in power since his father was shot in 2001 and should have stepped down when his term ended two years ago. Mr Kabila’s people, in turn, blamed their opponents, many of whom have been loudly critical of the plan to use voting machines instead of pens and paper ballots, arguing that it will allow the government to rig the poll.