DRC weekly electoral briefing (9-14 Oct)

Election calendar tight; candidate list; more police violence

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

October 26th, 2011

Introduction

During the week under review, AETA  released an assessment of the electoral process one month before presidential and parliamentary elections; the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) published the final list of candidates for National Assembly;  Human rights organisations again condemned police violence during political demonstrations by the opposition; twenty magistrates were trained on electoral disputes; the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) organised a workshop with political parties and civil society organisations in Kinshasa on governance of natural resources and election.

Assessment of the electoral process by AETA (Agir pour des elections transparentes et apaisees – network of civil society organizations monitoring the process across the country)

On October 14, 2011, AETA released a detailed technical evaluation of the implementation of the electoral calendar by CENI. The statement publicised what many politicians and other observers of the electoral process have expressed privately – that the CENI will not be able to organise credible elections on November 28 if it sticks to the current electoral calendar. Among its recommendations, AETA urged leaders of the government and political parties to consider the possibility of granting the CENI additional time for the organisation of the elections.

In the statement, AETA focused on the transparency and credibility of the electoral register. In this regard, AETA condemned the CENI’s lack of transparency and unilateralism, which are the basis of opposition suspicions about the process. For example, CENI conducted the process of cleaning-up the voter register with private companies – without a public tender and without involving political parties. AETA also deplored the fact that the publication on August 17 of the distribution of seats had been done on the basis of the previous, uncleaned and unaudited voter register.

Regarding the timing of electoral process, AETA found that logistical delays affecting the design, ordering and printing of ballots, and the manufacture and deployment of the polls raise serious doubts about the ability of the CENI to hold elections on November 28. In addition, AETA expressed concerns about the fact that the number of polling stations CENI has planned is so low – only 62,000 for a country the size of Western Europe – that it will be technically impossible to organise the elections in one day – given the number of voters (32 million) and the average time spent by an elector in a polling station (estimated at 7 minutes). AETA’s analysis concluded that it would take about two and a half days to complete the voting if the number of polling stations remains at 62,000.

AETA found that delays in the execution of tasks related to the electoral calendar and the opacity of the CENI have encouraged a climate of suspicion among political competitors – in addition the climate of intolerance that has emerged out of the brutal treatment of opposition demonstrations by the police.

Finally, disturbing signals coming from CENI’s service providers justify the need for the CENI to develop a regular, open and sincere dialogue about the steps, progress and obstacles in the electoral process and the regulations regarding electoral matters with political parties and civil society organisations.

Publication by the CENI of the final list of candidates for parliamentary election

CENI has published the final list of candidates for parliamentary elections. The final number is 18,386 candidates – including just 2,209 women (12% of candidates) – for 500 seats. The CENI said the final figure was a decrease from the initial 19,000 – and was due to the fact that they have taken into consideration, and acted on, the errors denounced in the provisional lists. At this point, the CENI says, the list of candidates has been cleaned of all factual and legal faults. This was a reference to a Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruling on Wednesday, October 5, which declared inadmissible for late filing the complaint of the opposition UDPS (Union pour la Democratie and le Progres Social) to invalidate certain lists of the ruling PPRD (Parti du Peuple for la Reconstruction et la Democratie) that had a higher number of candidates than seats allocated in the electoral district. The error should have been picked up by the CENI beforehand. The CENI’s defense was similar to the PPRD’s position – they both blamed the legal faults on clerical errors on the part of CENI’s agents. According to opposition parties, this excuse is enough to justify their demands for an audit of the voter register since there is no guarantee that such ‘clerical errors’ are not extended to the voter register.

Human rights organisations press briefing on civil liberties and police violence

On 12th October, nine human rights NGOs released yet another statement to denounce violations of civil liberties and increased political intolerance in the run up to the elections. The organisations denounced the systematic repression of demonstrations organised by opposition parties. They recalled that under the 2006 Constitution, demonstrations and other public events no longer require the government’s authorization, the organisers only need to inform the city’s mayor of the planned events. The statement condemned the undemocratic behavior of the Congolese National Police (PNC) and asked the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor to monitor political violence prior, during and after the election as was the case in Ivory Coast and Kenya.

On 14th October, a UDPS demonstration was dispersed by the police near the party’s national headquarters. Unfortunately, this ongoing struggle between the police and opposition parties on the streets is only serving to exacerbate tensions one month before election day.

Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) workshop on governance in natural resources

On 12 October, SARW organised a workshop with civil society organisation and political parties on the governance of natural resources. The objective of this workshop was to discuss the extent to which manifestos of political parties vying for the presidency address the crucial issue of poor governance in the extractive industry sector and provide an opportunity for party representatives to present their manifestos to the public mainly composed of civil society organizations that work on the issue.

In his opening remarks, Jean-Pierre Muteba of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the Publish What You Pay Coalition indicated that the living standards of the Congolese population are in sharp contrast to the revenues collected from the mining industry, which has only benefited the warlords and their sponsors associated with some Congolese political leaders. For his part, Bishop Pierre-Celestin Tshitoko, Bishop of Luebo, delegate of the Catholic Church, said African countries are forwarding resources of the DRC and 17 countries in the world which is addressed to the member countries of the Security Council UN, noting that indigenous peoples are forced off their land and did not benefit. He said there is a lack of patriotism on the part of leaders. Participants were asked to work for the development of the DRC through the exploitation of natural resources.

This workshop had the merit of inviting political leaders to make specific program on the management of natural resources. Although parties were fairly well represented (seven out of the 11 parties presenting candidates for president), only four made presentations, including Kabila’s PPRD. Tshisekedi’s UDPS was not represented and representatives of Kengo’s UFC, Oscar Kashala’s UREC and URDC claimed they did not have the mandate to make a public statement. 

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