Are credible polls possible in DRC?
Still no detailed plan for security or polling stations
It is less than two months until crucial presidential and parliamentary elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on November 28th and there are growing concerns about the actions of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) – and serious doubts about whether credible, transparent and democratic polls are possible.
The CENI has not yet released detailed information that will be vital to ensuring a credible election. Specifically, there are still insufficient details regarding the location of polling stations, and the plan for how these will be made secure both for voters and for ballot boxes; the provision of election monitors and observers, both from the international community and local civic actors; and how the results will be tallied, the process by which ballot boxes will be transported to counting centres and the mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.
Furthermore, with weeks to go before the polls, CENI has not conducted real consultations with political parties and civil society groups. The police also appear to be increasingly willing to use excessive force – including live ammunition – to manage political demonstrations.
These are the DRC's second democratic polls but they represent the first elections in which the State has driven the process - and the stakes are very high.
Credible elections would help to entrench peace and democracy. However, many Congolese feel that just five short years after peace officially returned to Congo, the international community has turned its back on democracy. Many fear that international actors are choosing continuity over peace. Yet the risks inherent in an unfair and election may include a violent post-election period.
While time is very short, the international community still has a window of opportunity to urge the CENI – and the DRC government – to take concrete steps to instil confidence in the credibility of the electoral process and keep DRC on the path of democracy and progress. The CENI needs to publish more detailed information about its pre-election strategy and how votes will be tallied. It must work with MONUSCO and the Congolese police to draft, publicise and implement a comprehensive security plan to guarantee the safety of voters.
The international community has invested heavily in restoring peace to the DRC. Yet, to be sustainable that peace must be consolidated through democratic processes. The upsurge in state-sponsored violence in recent weeks and the dis-engagement of international actors stand in stark contrast to the 2006, which were heavily monitored and supported. To avert another crisis in the DRC, the international community must act now.
The recent visit by the CENI President, Ngoyi Mulunda, to the United States and the United Kingdom points to a desire to maintain a certain international reputation and engagement with key donors and provides an opportunity to push for concrete measures to salvage the electoral process. The CENI has shown that it is not open to domestic pressure but there is an important opportunity for international pressure to ensure that the will of Congo’s people is respected on November 28th.