After four years of electoral inertia and in a stalled democratic process, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is preparing its second set of democratic elections in a hurry and on a rolling calendar. Opposition parties are trying to unite, thus far without success, and the international community is not in charge, as in effect it was the first time, in 2006.
The Congolese authorities face a dilemma: respect the constitutional deadline and organise botched elections, or ignore that deadline and slide into a situation of unconstitutional power. In both cases, the government’s legitimacy would be seriously questioned. The only way out of this Catch-22 situation is to both speed up preparations and negotiate a contingency electoral calendar and political agreement to manage an almost certainly necessary transition period.
More attention must also be paid to putting in place essential measures for transparency and inclusiveness, as well as a security system that will ultimately require important UN help. If these steps are not taken, foreign partners should disengage lest they lend undeserved credibility to a fundamentally flawed process.
Instead of signalling consolidation of democracy, the coming elections present at best a logistical problem and at worst a new cause of destabilisation for a country that has still not recovered from the long wars that marked the end of the Mobutu era and its denouement. President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party has already launched its campaign, even before the official start of the electoral season, while the opposition is trying to find its “champion” for the presidential contest. More than logistical difficulties give reason for concern.
At the start of the year, a constitutional review removed the presidential election’s run-off round, making it a single winner-takes-all round to the incumbent’s benefit, other electoral law changes favouring the ruling party may happen soon, as the draft bill is still being discussed. Within what is a general climate of insecurity, intimidation of Kabila’s opponents has already become apparent. Despite last-minute integration of some armed groups into the Congolese army, insecurity is still rife in the Kivus, while unexplained security incidents, including an attempted coup, have occurred in the west.
Full Article: Congo: The Electoral Dilemma – International Crisis Group.