- Associated Press
Congo Votes for President as Conflict and Smudged Ballots Lead to Fears Election Won’t be Credible
15:55 JST, December 20, 2023
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo headed to the polls Wednesday to vote for president as authorities scrambled to finalize preparations in an election facing steep logistical and security challenges. But an hour and a half after voting was meant to start, people in the capital were still waiting in line, yet to cast a ballot.
Some 44 million people — almost half the population — were expected to vote, but many, including several million displaced by conflict in the vast country’s east, could struggle to cast their ballots. The fighting has prevented 1.5 million people from registering to vote.
Voter Raymond Yuma in the capital of Kinshasa said he’s voting for hope. “When you wake up in the morning you’re hoping for good things, good work, and I want security,” said Yuma. He sat beside three other people on a bench waiting in line for the doors to open. None of their voting cards were legible.
In eastern Congo, people said they weren’t finding their names on voting lists.
“The voters displayed on lists at the polling station are fewer than those who are lining up. I can’t find my name on the list and this could cause scuffles here because I also want to vote,” said Jules Kambale at a polling station in Goma.
As the delay for voting stretched on, people grew agitated and began arguing, particularly in the capital.
Both outside observers and locals have warned of challenges that could affect the credibility of the vote in one of Africa’s largest nations and one whose mineral resources are increasingly crucial to the global economy.
On the eve of the vote, some polling stations in Kinshasa told Associated Press journalists they were still waiting for materials. Thousands of stations, particularly in remote areas, might still not have what they need on Wednesday.
A major concern is that ink on voting cards has smudged, making many illegible. That means people could be turned away from polling stations. In addition, the voter registration list hasn’t been properly audited.
“The organization of the elections raises lots of doubt regarding the credibility, the transparency and the reliability of the results,” said Bienvenu Matumo, a member of LUCHA, a local rights group.
A candidate needs a majority of votes in the first round to win.
President Felix Tshisekedi seeks his second and final five-year term, running against about 20 other candidates. His main rival appeared to be Moise Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga province and a millionaire businessperson whose campaign in 2018 was thwarted by the previous regime of former President Joseph Kabila.
But the opposition remains fractured, making Tshisekedi the likely favorite.
The son of a late, popular opposition figure, he has spent much of his presidency trying to consolidate power over state institutions and working to overcome a crisis of legitimacy after a contested election five years ago.
Some voters didn’t want to disclose who they were backing, but Kinshasa is a Tshisekedi stronghold.
“He’s someone who’s done a lot of things for the country … he’s fought for democracy,” said Joseph Tshibadi, a business owner. Even though Tshisekedi hasn’t succeeded in quelling violence in the east, Tshibadi is willing to give him more time.
“The beginning is always hard,” he said.
The election commission says it has made changes in the process to make it more credible, spending more than $1 billion on the vote since planning began two years ago. A key change from 2018 is that results from each of the 75,000 voting stations will be released one at a time, rather than being announced in bulk.
But given the logistical challenges, locals and analysts said the vote likely will be extended past Wednesday.
The results that should determine the winner should be the manual ones rather than the electronic count, said Rev. Eric Nsenga, a coordinator for the joint electoral observation mission between the Church of Christ for Congo and the Congolese National Episcopal Conference. He also warned against publicly releasing partial results as they are compiled in case it inflames tensions.
Already, some observers have alleged that the process has been far from transparent.
On Monday, the East African Community said its election observer mission was not granted access to Congo by authorities. Last month, the European Union canceled its observation mission after Congolese authorities did not authorize the use of satellite equipment for its deployment.
The vote is taking place as violence surges in eastern Congo, where more than 120 armed groups are fighting for power and resources or to protect their communities. They include the resurgence of M23 rebels, allegedly backed by neighboring Rwanda, which denies it.
"News Services" POPULAR ARTICLE
Taylor Swift Launches Legal Broadside at a College Student Who Tracks Private Jets Via Public Data
Unofficial Indonesia Election Vote Count Points to First Round Prabowo Win
North Korea Scraps All Economic Cooperation with South Korea
Private Lander Touches Down on the Moon but Sending Weak Signal
Special Counsel: Biden ‘Willfully’ Disclosed Classified Materials, But No Criminal Charges Warranted
JN ACCESS RANKING
- Current Account Surplus Doubles in ’23
- Business, Labor Leaders Reaffirm Vow to Raise Wages in Shunto Talks
- Japan Real Wages Fall at Steepest Pace in 9 Years in 2023
- Pressure Mounting for Wage Increases in Shunto Negotiations; Fears about the Response of Struggling SMEs
- North Korean Workers in China Riot over Unpaid Wages; 2,000 Occupy Factory, Kill Plant Manager