Under the current rules (changed months before the last elections in 2011), the DRC’s next president could come to power with just 5.3% of the vote. When voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) finally go to the polls on 23 December, it looks like they will be faced with a choice of at least 19 presidential candidates. This crowded race is too close to call, but whoever emerges victorious will be tasked with governing a vast and diverse nation of around 80 million people. They will need to be the president not just of those who voted for them, but also of those that didn’t. This is a challenge for any elected leader, but in the DRC’s case, this latter group could consist of the vast majority of the population.
Under DRC’s electoral rules, the president is elected in a single round, making it one of the few African countries where executive presidents are popularly elected through the plurality system. Under this arrangement, whoever garners the most votes wins, even if they are far short of a majority. That means that with 19 candidates currently on the ballot, DRC’s next president could – in theory – be elected with just 5.3% of the vote.
Such a breakdown is, of course, highly unlikely. In the 2011 elections, President Joseph Kabila won with 49%. In 2018, several candidates are already polling in the double-figures. Yet unless things change, it is still likely that the DRC’s next president will come to office in a fragile and divided nation with a majority of his compatriots – perhaps a large majority – having voted for someone else.