Turbulent election underway
Elections have started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for a new President and National Assembly.
The numbers are staggering in this election for a country which is as large as western Europe. There are 18,864 candidates standing for the 500 National Assembly seats and ten presidential candidates determined to unseat incumbent President Joseph Kabila.
In total, 31.4 million voters will be voting in 63,800 polling stations from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time where 186,000 ballot boxes will be stationed. There are 417 political parties standing in the election.
The 500 National Assembly seats are divided into 61 single member constituencies and 439 multi-member constituencies.
The main contenders in the presidential battle are Étienne Tshisekedi, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) candidate who has gelled much of the anti-Kabila vote around himself. Also Vital Kamerhe of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) and Léon Kengo Wa Dondo an Independent but highly admired former prime minister.
Jean-Pierre Bemba, whose Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) is currently the second largest party in the National Congress has not been able to contest the elections because he is currently in prison awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002. However, Bemba has sent a message to his supporters asking them to stand behind one candidate to oust Joseph Kabila – he didn’t say which candidate.
The logistics of the election have been so huge that many observers are concerned that ballot papers may not have reached their destination in time and that other logistics problems in this country which has little infrastructure will lead to accusations of poll rigging.