KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo's government may struggle to afford presidential elections in 2018 due to soaring costs, the electoral commission head said on Tuesday, adding a potential stumbling block to a vote that has already been postponed once.

President Joseph Kabila has ruled the country since 2001 and is required by the constitution to step down in December. But the government put back the vote from this November to April 2018, citing the cost of enrolling millions of voters.

The delay has prompted widespread protests and accusations that Kabila is stalling to hold on to power.

Corneille Nangaa, head of the CENI electoral commission, said the budget for the ballot would rise by nearly 60 percent to $1.8 billion, a sum he suggested would be tough to raise.


"Work is under way between CENI and the government to see the possibilities of substantial reductions of this budget in view of the financial difficulties that the country is facing," he told a news conference.

Nangaa gave no reason for the increase, but also no indication that a further delay in the vote was being considered.

In October the government of Africa's top copper producer, whose economy is being squeezed by low commodity prices, proposed a 14 percent cut for its 2017 budget.

(Reporting By Amedee Mwarabu Kiboko, writing by Edward McAllister; editing by John Stonestreet)

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