The Democratic Republic of Congo senate has amended a controversial census bill following four days of violent nationwide protests. The unrest, which began on Monday, has been connected to a government plan to conduct a census.
The new version removes the requirement to hold a census before a presidential election.
The opposition said this was a way for President Joseph Kabila to extend his time in office rather than stand down next year as planned.
The lower house of parliament still has to approve the changes.
Human rights groups say that dozens of people have been killed during the protests. The government puts the figure at 12 – a policeman shot by a sniper and 11 looters killed by security guards.
The opposition says it would take about three years to hold a census in DR Congo, a country two-thirds of the size of western Europe, which has very little infrastructure and is home to numerous armed groups in the east.
The government has argued that the census is vital to ensure polls are free and fair – the country has never had a reliable census since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Under the senate’s amendment, the elections could be held in 2016 as planned, before a census is conducted.
Mr Kabila first took power in 2001 following the assassination of his father Laurent, who was president at the time, and is constitutionally barred from running for another term.
The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, approved the plan for a census on Saturday, in a vote boycotted by opposition MPs.
The opposition says this amounts to a “constitutional coup” by Mr Kabila.