Accessibility links

Congo Elections Unlikely Until Mid-2017

  • Nick Long

Maman Sambo Sidikou (C), former Nigerian politician, Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) speaks during the opening of a Congolese "National Dialogue" in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on Sept. 1, 2016.

Maman Sambo Sidikou (C), former Nigerian politician, Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) speaks during the opening of a Congolese "National Dialogue" in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on Sept. 1, 2016.

After four days of talks there seems to be some meeting of minds at the Democratic Republic of Congo's political dialogue. Politicians from the ruling coalition and from an opposition grouping agree that holding elections this year is not realistic and are looking at a date from next May onward.

Only a few of the DRC's opposition parties are at a dialogue and their presence is viewed with suspicion by the others.

But they say there are real issues that need to be discussed and agreed to if the DRC is to hold peaceful elections.

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila inspects a guard of honor during the anniversary celebrations of the DRC's independence from Belgium in Kindu, DRC, June 30, 2016.

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila inspects a guard of honor during the anniversary celebrations of the DRC's independence from Belgium in Kindu, DRC, June 30, 2016.

The presidential elections were supposed to have been held before the end of this year, since president Joseph Kabila's second term ends in December and under the constitution he is limited to two terms.

But the ruling coalition has argued for some time that holding elections this year is unrealistic, because the list of voters needs updating. According to the electoral commission, this will take 16 months.

Voting options

Experts agree there are three options for dealing with the voters' list. One option is not to add new voters who have come of age since 2011. That would make elections before December still conceivable.

But ruling coalition spokesman Leonard She Okitundu argued Thursday this option would also be unconstitutional.

FILE - Democratic Republic of Congo's Parliament delegators Maitre Mbuku (R) and Leonard Okitundu talk together during the 128th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Related Meetings in Quito March 23, 2013.

FILE - Democratic Republic of Congo's Parliament delegators Maitre Mbuku (R) and Leonard Okitundu talk together during the 128th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Related Meetings in Quito March 23, 2013.

It would mean violating the constitutional principle of inclusivity, he says. The constitutional time limit could be respected, but keeping to the time limit while excluding half the electors is not acceptable.

It's been widely said here that there should be about 45 million voters on the voters' list, whereas currently there are only 23 million.

A second option is to partially revise the list and a third is to totally revise it. The ruling coalition favors the third option, and according to She Okitundu, that is the dominant view at the dialogue.

Opposition spokesman Jean Lucien Mbusa told media the debate on these options continues. He did not say which option the opposition favors, but suggested the government has effectively made it impossible to hold elections this year.

He says his group thinks the government has created all the mechanisms for avoiding holding the presidential elections on time, and responsibility for this must be made clear.

Experts from the United Nations and from the international organization of French speaking countries - la francophonie - believe the voters' list could be fully revised and elections held within about ten and a half months.

Another opposition spokesman Basil Olongo, from the same party as Jean-Lucien Mbusa, suggested this would be acceptable.

He says there may be an overrun (from the constitutional time limit) of four or five months, but the sky won't fall in. The essential thing, he says, is to organize the elections well, to avoid giving President Kabila a third mandate and to consolidate the country's democracy.

The ruling coalition and opposition spokesmen collectively said a dialogue committee will decide how the voters' list should be updated.

XS
SM
MD
LG