The presidential elections in the DRC are scheduled for November 28, 2011. The stakes are evidently high, given the history of civil conflict (the 2006 presidential elections were facilitated by UN peacekeepers).
The 2011 campaign officially began on October 28 [fr] and includes 13 candidates in a country that has as many as 400 political parties. Many observers have highlighted the major events during the campaign, and attempted to forecast how the elections will unfold.
Radio Okapi highlights the difficulties [fr] encountered by the CENI (the Independent Commission for the National Elections) in the days before the elections:
Au cours d’une conférence de presse tenue vendredi 25 novembre, son rapporteur Matthieu Pita a déclaré que 33 aéronefs n’ont pas pu décoller pour des raisons météorologiques. Ces engins devraient servir au déploiement du matériel électoral dans les provinces.«Vous êtes un peu déçu, mais rassurez-vous que ce n’est pas de mauvaise foi. C’est pour des raisons opérationnelles », a ajouté Matthieu Pita.En dépit de ces difficultés logistiques, Matthieu Pita a annoncé que les élections auront bel et bien lieu le 28 novembre.
Radio Okapi also notes that 50,000 voters in the region of Rutshuru of Northern Kivu still did not know where they would vote [fr]:
Des sources rapportent qu’au moins 18 centres n’ont toujours pas de listes d’électeurs. Cette situation inquiète les électeurs de ce territoire. [..] Député élu de la circonscription électorale de Rutshuru, Sekimonyo wa Magango appelle ses électeurs à l’apaisement.
«J’ai contacté la haute hiérarchie de la Ceni. Toutes ces autorités viennent de me rassurer que les listes électorales vont nous arriver avant les élections. Tout détenteur de la carte électorale à Rutshuru va voter lundi. C’est la garantie qu’ils m’ont donné et je voudrais que toute la population de Rutshuru s’apaise», a rassuré le professeur Sekimonyo Wa Magangu.
“I contacted the top hierarchy of the CENI. The authorities assured me that the voters lists are going to reach us before the elections. Any holder of a voter's card in Rutshuru will be able to vote on Monday. This is the guarantee they gave me and I want all the people of Rutshuru to stay calm.”
In Bunyakiri, the blog Local Voices also raised concerns about the fact that electoral lists and voting ballots are still to be dispatched [fr] to 160 polling stations.
Jason Stearns sums up the growing fear of delay:
A last-minute delay in the election appears to be likely, according to several separate diplomatic sources in Kinshasa. The sources, who wished the remain anonymous given the insistence by the election commission that elections will be held on November 28, said that it would extremely difficult to deploy all necessary materials on time. However, one of the diplomats suggested that the commission thinks it will be less controversial to present the various actors with a fait accompli: a brief delay of the polls.
However, other sources, including the election commission and the UN peacekeeping mission, believe it is still possible to hold elections on time.
The logistical task for the election commission is daunting. The last election materials are reportedly arriving today or tomorrow and have to be distributed to 210 distribution centers. The United Nations has mobilized its substantial fleet of airplanes and helicopters, but the materials will have to be distributed to 64,000 polling centers. In addition, the Congolese government has been able to obtain crucial support from both the Angolan and South African governments, who are deploying aircraft to the country, as well.
In the absence of reliable opinion polls, Jason Stearns also attempted the difficult task of forecasting the outcomes of the elections (Stearns also clarifies that he does not attempt to predict a winner but merely identify the trends in the campaign). He sums up his analysis thus:
If you take these projections and weight them by the population of the provinces, you can conclude that it will be a close race between Kabila and Tshisekedi. Turnout will be crucial, as will the extent to which disaffection with the current government will translate into votes for opposition candidates. A last-minute endorsement by Bemba and coalitions among opposition candidates could also sway the vote.
Didier Muhama who blogs at Now African, reports on an informal poll conducted in almost all the neighborhoods of Goma (except Mugunga):
Out of a bit over 500 people from 18 to 24 years old, the following question was asked: who will you vote for? Out of the 500 participants, Joseph Kabila got 52, Vital Kamerhe 323 and Tshisekedi 120 while the other 8 candidates got a total of 25. I decided to conduct my own little inquiry…
“Vital Kamerhe, because his project is valuable compared to the so-called five sites that Kabila had promised to undertake during his presidency. I don’t trust Kabila anymore, he didn’t keep his mandate promises.” explains Sammy W., student at UNIGOMMA university.
Incumbent President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001. He took office ten days after the assassination of his father. In 2006 he was elected as President opening the door to widespread violence.
Sarah K., 19, from the Mabanga neighborhood: “I will vote for Kabila, mainly because he is handsome” she blurts out with a timid smile, “then he also brought peace to our region and the country as a whole! I think he needs more time to accomplish the promises the made in 2006.” she ends.
Alex Egwete writes about worrying reports of phantom polling stations:
The electoral commission is in the midst of yet another controversy, this time over the discovery of phantom polling stations in the “cartography” of polling stations CENI recently published. Some opposition groups and journalists have given CENI Chair Rev Daniel Ngoy Mulunda 72 hours (commencing yesterday) to come up with a coherent explanation for those phantom polling stations. Pro-opposition RLTV, which is airing again after a short ban stemming from the infamous phone interview with Tshisekedi in which the UDPS leader proclaimed himself DRC president, gave evidence of a half-dozen of those phantom polling stations in Kinshasa alone, including bars and private residences whose occupants were flabbergasted to find out that their homes were listed as polling stations