New law clears way for DRC polls

Elections to choose a head of state and members of the legislature are now set for 18 June following the 9 March promulgation of the Electoral Act. Independent Electoral Commission president Apollinaire Malu Malu announced on 9 March that presidential and parliamentary polls would take place on 18 June and not 29 April as previously planned. According to Malu Malu, the postponement was due to delays in enacting the electoral law. Candidates contesting presidential and parliamentary seats began registering on 10 March and have 10 days to complete the exercise in the capital, Kinshasa. Aspiring presidential candidates will be required to pay a non-refundable nomination fee of US$50 000 while parliamentary candidates will pay US$250 to file nomination papers. These are part of new measures contained in the electoral law and aimed at discouraging opportunists from contesting the polls. “This is to prevent some adventurers from applying,” said Olivier Kamitatu, president of the Congolese National Assembly, after the promulgation of the country’s new Constitution on 19 February. At least 27 candidates, including women, have declared interest in contesting for the presidency of the former Zaire. They include President Joseph Kabila, who will represent the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD); Azarias Ruberwa, contesting on a Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) ticket; and Pierre Pay-Pay wa Syakassighe of the Convention of Democratic Congolese (CODECO). Others include Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. The three female candidates are Justine Kasavubu of the Movement for Democracy, Wivine Nlandu of Bandundu-Bas Congo-Kinshasa Holding (BBK-Holding) and Cath’rine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, leader of Movement for Popular Revolution. Kasavubu is a daughter of the first post-independence president, Joseph Kasavubu, and has served as a minister for civil administration and ambassador to Belgium during the administration of the late Laurent Kabila, father to the incumbent president. So far only three of the presidential candidates ‘ Kabila, Pay-Pay wa Syakassighe and Soriano Katebe Katoto of Liberals Union for Democracy ‘ have indicated they are ready to pay the stipulated nomination fee. Pay-Pay wa Syakassighe is a former governor of the Congolese central bank and once served as minister of economics and finance under late President Mobutu Sese Seko. He has been campaigning for “rational” leadership of the DRC and wants the Congolese to give a chance to those with experience to run the affairs of the country. Katebe Katoto is a powerful businessperson, with business interests in the DRC, Zambia and Belgium. Other candidates feel the nomination fees are too steep and claim it is a way by the ruling party to exclude them. More than 300 political parties are expected to contest for the right to represent various constituencies in the Congolese parliament. The DRC has 169 districts and each one is regarded as a constituency. These will be the first democratic elections in the DRC since its independence from Belgium in 1960. Previous attempts to hold elections have faltered due to civil wars often triggered by disagreements on the Constitution and how the vast central African country should be run. Conditions for the holding of democratic elections brightened after the 2003 signing of an all-embracing peace deal that ushered in a transitional government led by Kabila. The transitional government had until 30 June 2005 to organise polls, a deadline later moved to 30 June this year. ‘

March 2006
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