Towards the end of last month, on 25 October, the voters of the Democratic Republic of Congo went to the polls and elected representatives to sit in the parliaments of each of the country’s 26 provinces. That Sunday two weeks ago was the firing of a starting pistol which has launched a mammoth exercise in democracy during which, over 13 months and six different dates, the Congolese people and their new provincial legislators will take part in 12 separate elections, some direct (provincial and national deputies), others indirect (governors and national senators). Having filled thousands of elected positions from town councillors to provincial governors, the culmination of this herculean process will take place on 27 November 2016 when, returning to the polling booth, the Congolese will choose their 500 national parliamentarians and a new president.
At least that was the theory, the roadmap for what should happen between now and the end of next year. This was how it was laid out when CENI, the DRC’s electoral commission, published its schedule in February. It remains possible that the two really significant elections – those for the National Assembly and the presidency – may take place during 2016 and indeed a vociferous insistence on precisely this point unites the DRC’s myriad opposition parties more than any other issue. Nevertheless, the prospects are not especially auspicious. Underfunded and lacking leadership, CENI is in disarray, its calendar voided by the constitutional court and a replacement as yet unforthcoming.
The electoral landscape in the DRC is ever more uncertain and muddled. For the Congolese, the lack of clarity is a fount of unrelenting suspicion and rumour – and at the centre of all that is unknown is the figure of Joseph Kabila, the taciturn 44-year-old who came to power during wartime when his father was assassinated in 2001. Nobody (apart from, one presumes, the head of state himself and his closest confidantes) appears to have any idea how Kabila plans to approach a presidential election which the Congolese constitution requires to be held before the close of 2016. Equally, nobody thinks it likely he’ll meekly step aside.
Fu8ll Article: Congo’s uncertain election | openDemocracy.