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Money, not Politics, Behind Congo Constitutional Amendment

  • Peter Clottey

A Democratic Republic of Congo cabinet minister has described as nonsensical accusations that a proposed constitutional amendment will weaken the opposition and will act as a significant boost to the ruling party in the scheduled 27th November general elections.

Information minister Lambert Mende said the country’s fiscal condition is, in his words, the main reason for the amendment adding that the international donor community has been unable to provide promised funds to help with the upcoming elections.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila

Congolese President Joseph Kabila

“I don’t see where somebody can see a break of the law, or a fraudulent action, when a majority of parliament members are proposing to discuss an amendment to the constitution. This is really, so to speak, out of sense,” said Mende.

“We have to respect our constitution and the rights of the citizens, or a parliament member, to act if he needs the constitution to be amended where it is not forbidden for the constitution to be amended.”

The government proposed a change in the constitution that will only permit a one-round presidential election. But, opposition groups were unanimous in rejecting the proposal, saying it is a calculated attempt to organize fraud elections.

Mende said the accusations are baseless and without merit.

“When we talk of (an) amendment to the constitution to have the president elected by one poll instead of two, due to budgetary reasons, it is the right of the parliament member, or the government, or the head of state, or 100,000 citizens, to propose such an amendment.”

He also said that the proposed amendment will “even the playing field” in this year’s presidential election.

“We don’t have the money. We have received a lot of promises of money from our friends in the international community only to hear last month that there is no way for them to afford that promise, and we have to work otherwise,” said Mende.

“That is why we have to take (up) our responsibility to find a way of having the election in the constitutional timetable and to make it with our own means. That means that we have to bear the cost of this election. It is a matter of responsibility.”

Meanwhile, analysts say that, under a one-round election system, a presidential candidate could win with as little as 20 percent of the vote.

Under the current system, the Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to hold a first-round presidential election in November with a second round held in early 2012 if necessary.

Parliament would have to approve changes to the constitution for a one-round system to be put in place.

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