The ruling coalition of the Democratic Republic of Congo said a series of elections set to take place over the next year should be delayed by at least six months to allow the country to hold a national census. “The political class should have the courage to support the organization of a national census, if necessary” Andre-Alain Atundu Liongo, spokesman for the Presidential Majority, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa. “If this means a delay of six months, eight months or more, the political class needs to be prepared.”
Congo plans to hold a series of elections over the next 12 months, culminating in a presidential vote in November 2016. Opposition politicians have warned that the ruling party wants to delay the electoral process to allow President Joseph Kabila to hold on to power when his two-term mandate ends next year. Conducting a census in Congo, a country that’s about the size of Western Europe, would take years, according to Jason Stearns, a senior fellow at the New York-based Center on International Cooperation
In January, Congo’s Senate abandoned plans for a revised electoral law that would have required a census to be held before elections could take place after the proposal triggered protests in Kinshasa. At least 36 people died and telecoms services were suspended during the demonstrations, according to Human Rights Watch.