DRC poll run-off faces challenge

The country’s new Constitution promulgated in May this year states that the second round of the presidential elections shall be held within 15 days after the announcement of the initial election results.

Following the announcement of preliminary results on 20 August in which there was no clear winner of the presidential race, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) set 29 October as the tentative date for the second round of voting.

But the Supreme Court issued a statement on 5 September ‘ the day it was expected to announce the official results ‘ saying that it had been challenged to rule on the legality of the date for the run-off.

The statement did not name the petitioners nor did it say when the court would make its ruling. However, official results can now only be released after the ruling.

The IEC set the October date for the run-off citing logistical difficulties compounded by the vast size of the central African country, which is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The initial presidential elections took place on 29 July to pave the way for change from a transitional government to a democratically elected administration.

President Joseph Kabila has been leading the transitional government that was put together via the April 2003 power sharing agreement signed in South Africa.

Kabila and former rebel leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, led the polls but failed to amass the required 50 percent-plus-one vote.

The DRC Constitution requires that a presidential candidate must amass 50 percent-plus-one vote of total votes cast in a national election to be declared as president.

Kabila won 44.81 percent of the vote, while Bemba had 20.03 percent.

The results of the preliminary presidential elections sparked violence between supporters of the two candidates, who are now preparing for the run-off.

However, peace was restored when the two candidates agreed on a ceasefire while further peace talks continue.

The two camps discussed on 30 August at a United Nations-brokered peace initiative when they agreed on fresh rules for the second round of presidential elections.

This was the first meeting since clashes led to the killing of 23 people in the capital Kinshasa on 23 August.

A total of 32 presidential candidates were vying for office and more than 9,700 others contested for 500 legislative seats in the National Assembly. The parliamentary candidates were contesting for 189 constituencies in this mineral rich country.

The election attracted over 70 percent of the 25.6 million registered voters.

The IEC had initially set the inauguration of the president-elect for 10 September. Should the run-off go ahead on 29 October, the inauguration will take place on 10 December.

This was the first democratic election in the vast mineral-rich country in about 46 years since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The last democratic poll was in 1960 that led to the election of the government of the late Patrice Lumumba. Subsequent attempts to hold democratic elections have faltered.

The election was a major step for the people of the DRC to put behind memories of the civil war and work towards the economic development of the country.

SADC has described the DRC polls as peaceful, credible and transparent and will be hoping for sustainable peace in one of Africa’s untapped economic giants.

DRC has experienced a rough ride to the democratic elections with sporadic civil wars that have disturbed peace since the 1960s when Lumumba was assassinated. ‘ sardc.net.

September 2006
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