Political tension could derail DR Congo polls

ceniRegistation of candidates for the Oct. 25 provincial elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo began last week amid acrimony from opposition parties and civil society groups.

The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) said the operation to receive nomination papers will continue until May 5, 2015.

“A hundred offices are currently operational across the country.

“We plan to open 171 offices across the country to receive documents of prospective candidates,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, CENI’s public relations officer.

While meeting on April 18 with the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General in the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, CENI officials highlighted the progress made in resolving disagreements, before reiterating that the expected logistical support from the UN Mission for Stablization of Congo (MONUSCO) was still essential for the conduct of the electoral operations.

In its Resolution No. 2211 of 2015, the UN Security Council authorized MONUSCO to provide logistical support to facilitate the conduct of the elections.

The council further asked DR Congo to rapidly come up with a budget and an electoral code and also prepare the electoral register so that elections, especially the presidential and legislative elections scheduled to take place in November 2016, could be held in accordance with the time lines stipulated in the Constitution.

However, CENI and the government are headed on a collision course not only because of the dispute raised by the opposition parties over the electoral timetable, but also over funding of the elections.

“The timetable published by CENI is not consensual, it is unrealistic, incoherent and violates the Constitution,” representatives of opposition political parties, civil society groups and the diaspora said when they met in Kinshasa in February this year.

However, the ruling party, People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) argues that the timetable is tenable since there will be sufficient time to organize the seven different elections.

“We have two years to organize the elections.

“The financial means are being sought from here and there,” head of PPRD’s parliamentary group Ramazani Shadani said.

Besides the political parties, the civil society is equally concerned over the eventual extension of the electoral calendar. It has asked CENI and political actors to ensure all Constitutional time frames for holding elections, especially presidential, are respected.

Speaking on April 16, CENI president Apollinaire Malu Malu rejected opposition demands regarding the electoral timetable.

He insisted that the drafting of the said timetable was an exclusive prerogative of the electoral commission, and it can neither be changed by government, parliament or even opposition parties.

In parliament, issues of budgetary constraints were raised on April 17 during heated debates between members of the presidential camp and opposition.

The opposition lamented that the government had not announced a plan for disbursing the over 1 billion U.S. dollars that will be needed for all the elections.

Due to this, the opposition has announced plans to boycott the operation to register their candidates for the provincial elections.

In a press conference held on Monday in Kinshasa, opposition leaders, civil society groups and independent candidates asked their supporters across the country to abstain from taking part in the ongoing electoral process organized by CENI, as they await the outcome of a meeting they have organized with the institution.

If the operations are conducted within the stipulated time frame as assured by Malu Malu, nothing wrong will happen. But what is certain is that if there are changes on the electoral timetable and the money needed for organising the elections is not available, the electoral process could be derailed.

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