Repeatedly delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo face another obstacle after the budget minister said he doubted whether the country could find the funds to hold a poll this year.
Pierre Kangudia said government coffers were empty and it would be “difficult to gather” the necessary $1.8bn (£1.5bn).
His claim has further dimmed hopes that a fragile political deal could avert serious civil conflict in the central African country.
It comes 12 days after the death of Étienne Tshisekedi, a veteran politician whom analysts say was the only figure capable of unifying the DRC’s fragmented opposition to the continued rule of President Joseph Kabila.
Tshisekedi was set to lead a transitional council, part of an agreement put together in December intended to pave the way for Kabila to leave power in 2017 and refrain from running for a third term as president.
The end of Kabila’s presidential mandate in December prompted protests in cities across the DRC. More than 40 people are thought to have died and hundreds were arrested during two days of violence.
The deal, concluded under the auspices of Congo’s influential Catholic church, is heavily dependent on a government promise to hold polls this year.
The US, UK and European nations welcomed the agreement and are pushing for an early election, which they are likely to partially fund.
Close aides of Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, claim logistical difficulties mean it would be impractical to hold any polls before 2018.
The president has been accused of trying to cling to power by postponing elections indefinitely – a charge denied by spokesmen and supporters.