Challenges looming over the DRC’s election: can trust be restored?

FILE PHOTO: Congolese Presidential candidate Moise Katumbi waves to his supporters at the Beni airport after holding campaign meetings in the Grand-Nord part of North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 26, 2023. REUTERS/Arlette Bashizi/File Photo

As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares for the presidential election on December 20, there is significant concern and disagreement surrounding the election process, creating doubts about its fairness.

Issues such as illegible voter cards, blocked campaign planes, and delays in electoral lists, criticised by independent observers and opposition parties alike, contribute to the uncertainty.

The Arguments
The opposition, led by challengers to President Felix Tshisekedi, alleges that the CENI has intentionally created an uneven playing field and manipulated the voter roster to favour certain election outcomes including through voter roll trickery, claims the Presidency denies.

In the final weeks of campaigning, tensions are rising as some opposition leaders complain about campaign suppression and logistical obstacles that violate the electoral laws requiring equal opportunities for all candidates.

Presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi decries a lack of democracy in the country, pointing to a climate that hinders fair competition, stating “there is no longer democracy in this country”. Opposition candidates face challenges such as restricted campaign air trips and logistical barriers in reaching voters across the vast land.

The antagonistic environment between the opposition, claiming unfair treatment, and the governing party, denying any unfair practices, further tests the trustworthiness and credibility of the overall democratic process in the DRC.

The Facts
The Democratic Republic of Congo, marked by years of political struggles, strives for credible elections. However, logistical issues within the CENI draw criticism, raising concerns about the credibility of the election process.

The country’s unstable situation and controversial election procedures threaten to cause widespread discontent in society. As the world’s largest source of cobalt, Congo’s political instability has global implications for industries relying on this key resource.

The upcoming elections are marred by issues like tearing down electoral posters and requisitioning aviation fuel to hinder opposition campaigns. The Carter Centre notes deficiencies in voter registration transparency, irregularities in publishing voter lists, and challenges with illegible voter cards, casting doubt on the fairness and non-violence of the elections.

Besides these challenges, voters face difficulties obtaining clear and legible voter cards, raising concerns about potential chaos on polling day.


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