By Giulia Paravicini
KINSHASA (Reuters) - The president of Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, plans to stay in politics when he steps down after elections on Dec. 23 and does not rule out running again for president in 2023, he told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.
The long-delayed elections will mark Congo's first democratic transfer of power and an end to Kabila's rule that began in 2001 after the assassination of his father.
Kabila was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his constitutional mandate. But the election to replace him was repeatedly delayed and until recently it was unclear if he would seek a third consecutive term. He will be eligible to run again in 2023 after a break.
He has hand-picked a hard-core loyalist named Ramazani Shadary as his preferred candidate, who is under European Union sanctions for his involvement in human rights violations.
"Why don’t we wait for 2023 ... to envision anything," said Kabila in a rare interview at the presidential palace in the capital Kinshasa, wearing a dark blue suit and tie. "In life as in politics, I don’t rule out anything."
The delay in elections has coincided with a breakdown in security across much of the mineral-rich country. Militants fight over land and minerals in the east near the border with Uganda and Rwanda. The violence has allowed an Ebola outbreak to spread in the east to become the second largest ever recorded.
International observers say insecurity will make holding elections difficult and create the opportunity for cheating, especially with the use of new voting machines.
Kabila said he aims for the polls to be close to "perfection".
He also said there were no plans to alter the new mining code in the foreseeable future.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)