Congo Elections

Q&A and Backgrounder

1. What is the official date of the elections?
Both the Presidential and Legislative elections will take place on November 28, 2011. The campaign officially began on October 28, 2011 and will end midnight on Saturday, November 26.

2. How many candidates are running and who are the major candidates?
Eleven candidates will run for President. The major candidates include the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, longtime opposition figure Etienne Tshisekedi, former President of Parliament, Vital Kamhere, current President of the Senate and former Prime Minister in the Mobutu Regime, Leon Kengo Wa Dundo.

3. How many people are registered to vote?
The Independent National Electoral Commission registered 32.5 million people to vote in the November 28th elections.

4. Is the presidential elections the only vote to take place?
No, both the presidential and legislative elections will take place on November 28th. Regarding the Legislative elections, 500 seats are up for grabs and over 19,000 candidates have registered to run for the 500 seats.

5. Will the elections actually take place on the designated date of November 28th?
Although a number of Congolese and international NGOs say that the logistics are not in place for the elections, all indications are that the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) will hold the elections on November 28th. The President of the CENI, Daniel Ngoy claims that everything will be fully in place by November 25th in preparation for the vote on November 28th.

6. Many news reports indicate that violence will occur during the elections, is this true?
Almost all indications are that the elections will in fact be violent. During the registration period and since the beginning of the electoral campaign violent clashes have occurred primarily between President Joseph Kabila’s party (PPRD) supporters and the main opposition party supporters (Etienne Tshisekedi’s UDPS). Appeals for a peaceful elections have been made by the religious community, local and international NGOs, the European Union, African Union and the United Nations but violence appears to be certain. The United Nations recently published a report that documented 200 cases of election-related violence.

7. What are some of the logistical challenges faced by the election organizers?
Congo has limited paved roads, therefore most travel from East to West or North to South has to be done by air. The elections require 62,000 polling stations, 180,000 ballot boxes and 64 million ballots, therefore an enormous air lift campaign is required to distribute the ballot boxes and ballots. As soon as China and South Africa complete the printing of the ballots and the construction of the ballot boxes they have to be distributed throughout the country. The first ballot boxes arrived on the week of November 7th, which is well behind the schedule of 2006.

8. Mostly bad news have been reported about the elections, is there any good news?
Yes, there is good news. The fact that the leadership of the country is being contested democratically and that a nationwide consensus exists whereby elections is the legitimate avenue through which leaders will be determined is good news for a country that has experienced decades of dictatorship and conflict. In addition, civil society is fully engaged in making the elections as peaceful and non-violent as possible. They are educating the local population and have issued several reports calling on the political leaders to be responsible in their conduct of their campaigns.

9. When will the election results be announced?
The provisional results for the presidential elections will be announced on December 6th and the final results on December 20th. Regarding the legislative elections, the results are scheduled to be announced on January 13th.

10. We are told this year’s election is Congo’s third democratic one, when did Congo have its first elections?
Congo had its first elections in May 1960, where it elected its first Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Lumumba. Unfortunately, he was overthrown by the United States (Read Chief of Station, Congo by Larry Devlin of the CIA for detailed description of Lumumba’s overthrow by the U.S.) in collaboration with Congolese sycophants within weeks of being inaugurated and later assassinated on January 17, 1961. The Congo has not been the same since, it quickly descended into Chaos and later ruled by US-backed dictator Joseph Desire Mobutu for over 30 years. The second election, held in 2006 was won by Joseph Kabila who is running for a second term this year.

Election Background

Common Cause UK On October 28, 2011 the election campaign began in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Presidential and Legislative elections will take place on November 28, 2011. Although the electoral campaign officially began on October 28th, for all intents and purposes, the election maneuvering began in January 2011 when President Joseph Kabila and the presidential majority in the Congolese Parliament amended the Congolese constitution. The change in the Constitution called for the Presidential elections to be contested in one round instead of two. Before the amendment, in order to win the presidency, the candidate had to win a majority of the votes. If no candidate acquired a majority in the first round of the elections, there would be a runoff between the two top candidates. Now that the Constitution is amended, there is only one round and whoever wins the highest percentage of the votes will become President. Theoretically, someone can become president with as little as ten percent of the votes.

The constitutional change has shaped the electoral landscape for the past ten months. On November 28, 11 candidates will vie for the presidency and over 18,000 candidates will compete for 500 Parliamentary seats.

Due to the constitutional change by President Kabila and his presidential majority, the onus has been placed on the opposition to unify behind a single candidate so that the opposition vote is not divided among several candidates. Due to the vacuous nature of Congo’s political elite, a consensus candidate has not been selected, therefore President Kabila goes into the November 28th elections with a greater chance of victory.

Thus far the campaign period has been contentious and violent. The main clashes have occurred between the main opposition party, UDPS, led by veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi and the adherents of President Kabila’s party, PPRD. The specter of violence during the elections has risen to a point where the electoral commission has called upon the international Criminal Court to monitor the electoral process.

A persistent area of concern is the logistics of the elections and the potential of a delay in the polls. The Congo is infamous for its lack of infrastructure (particularly roads and rail). Therefore, it is a logistical nightmare to distribute 180,000 ballot boxes and 64 million ballots from China and South Africa respectively. Once in country, it is the job of the United Nations to distribute them throughout the nation. It was only during the first week of November that the first shipment arrived. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) claims that all the polling stations will be equipped and ready to go by November 25th. Many local and international observers have called for a delay in the polls to assure that all logistical challenges are worked out. President Kabila, the head of the CENI, Daniel Ngoy Mulunda and Etienne Tshisekedi have all called for the elections to be held on the designated date, November 28, 2011.

A delay in the polls risks triggering a constitutional crisis. According to the Congolese constitution, a new government must be installed by December 6th. Should this deadline be missed, it opens up the political arena for greater uncertainty. The leading opposition figure, Etienne Tshisekedi, has vowed not to recognize the current government as the legitimate caretaker of the nation if a President is not elected and installed by December 6th. Congolese civil society, the United Nations and International NGOs have called for a delay in the vote and a contingency plan in case the elections do not take place on November 28th.

The Friends of the Congo (FOTC) is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The FOTC was established at the behest of Congolese human rights and grassroots institutions in 2004, to work together to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. FOTC can be contacted at: Read other articles by Friends, or visit Friends's website.