DR Congo on Wednesday announced that key elections due to take place nationwide on December 30 would be postponed to March in two regions troubled by violence.
But those delays will not affect the timetable for the presidential ballot, which is being held alongside legislative and provincial elections, the national election commission CENI said.
Already postponed three times, the elections are due to bring the curtain down on the era of President Joseph Kabila, in charge of the vast mineral-rich country for nearly 18 turbulent years.
"The elections in the Beni region and the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province as well as Yumbi in the (southwest) Mai-Ndombe province initially scheduled for December 30 will now be held in March," CENI said.
The "final results" of the presidential vote will still be published on January 15, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, CENI said.
It did not explain how this would dovetail with the outcome of the vote in the troubled regions, which would take place much later.
Opposition figures reacted furiously to the latest electoral setback.
"This latest intrigue shows the regime wants to extend its stay in power to continue its plundering," Moise Katumbi, a former governor of Katanga province who is backing opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, said on Twitter.
"They think we're bloody idiots!" tweeted Leonie Kandolo, a member of a committee in the powerful Catholic church that staged three anti-Kabila rallies this year.
Roughly three percent of some 40 million registered voters will be affected by the delay.
The elections were due to have been held on December 23, climaxing a long period of blood-stained turbulence.
But CENI ordered a week-long postponement, blaming a warehouse fire that destroyed voting machines and ballot papers earmarked for Kinshasa.
Two and a half times bigger than France and Germany combined, the Democratic Republic of Congo has a long history of political turmoil and violence.
It has never had a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.
In 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 it became the theatre of two wars that left millions of dead and homeless and sucked in countries from around central and southern Africa.
Memories of the conflict haunt the region still.
In Brazzaville, the capital of the neighbouring Republic of Congo, eight countries met Wednesday to discuss the situation in the DRC.
The summit gathered Angola, Botswana, Congo, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia, although there was no DRC envoy.
Smaller conflicts are also unfolding in the east of the country, where swathes of the countryside are in the grip of brutal militias.
*The story was edited by Ahram Online.