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Les agents de la CENI déversant des bulletins de vote avant le comptage en novembre 2011

Last 13 June 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the elections in DRC. This initiative highlights the challenges of the democratic transition.

Lessons Learnt

In this Resolution 2012/2673 (RSP) on monitoring elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, all the remarks regarding the electoral process are relevant. After the previous ballot of 2006, the presidential and legislative elections of 28 November 2011 were the second vote since the 1960 Independence. With the benefit of hindsight, some useful lessons can be learnt.

Obviously, the change in electoral law was not explained enough. DRC decided to finance by herself almost entirely these elections. The decision to adopt a one round system with relative majority for the presidential ballot avoids the financial burden of an electoral process spread over several weeks. In this country as large asEurope, this is common sense.

In addition, the Congolese authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) have taken full account of all the dysfunctions and shortcomings. The close examination of the 469 litigation cases reveals that irregularities were caused by local individual initiatives. The security of ballot boxes remains the main concern.

Further, in contrast to the elections organized inIraqor inAfghanistan, DRC did not experienced huge outbreaks of violence, massive fraud or systematic coercion. There was neither arbitrary closure of ballot stations nor large-scale manipulation of the electoral roll.

Democratic Ownership

The outcomes of these two recent votes have produced a clear majority. Modest scores indicate a real competition: 48.9% for President Kabila and 22.2% for his PPRD party. The opposition got 31% of the  seats in the Assembly. During the 5-year mandate, the MPs from the opposition will have to built-up efficiency, join forces around credible leader, take initiatives  and fully develop their contribution in the democratic debate.

The new government was appointed 5 months after the legislative results. This period of time highlights the desire to balance political forces and to ensure the best possible representativeness for the parties of the majority coalition. Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo doesn’t have a high political profile and he enjoys a strong reputation for integrity. He is widely perceived as a result-oriented leader, open to dialogue.

Achieving the democratic ownership of Congolese politicians is certainly the greatest challenge. DRC is conducting reconstruction in a thorny post-conflict environment. From 1996 to 2003, this country suffered 6 years of war and a complete collapse of public institutions. Today, DRC is being engaged in the double process of reinstating State authority and completing Democratic transition.

However, beyond political circles, the 73,5 million Congolese people also have to develop this democratic ownership. Since 2005, the number of registered voters has raised by 25% to reach 32 million. This surge of new registrants confirms a genuine citizen engagement. With 58%, the voters turnout is still below expectations but a Congolese civil society is emerging. People make their voices heard on all major issues. Progressively, this civil society is building a check-and-balance capacity.

Towards Maturity

In its final Observation Report, the EU EOM has forwarded 22 recommendations. They will be implemented in the preparation of the local and provincial elections scheduled in January 2013. The date of this coming ballot has been several times delayed with the purpose to optimize organization. A restructuring of the CENI is under process and the creation of additional organizations is under consideration. The stakes are important: Congolese people will elect representatives who will interact with them every day. 

Learning about Democracy cannot be achieved with 3 ballots. As the MEPs rightly put it in the Resolution, « elections are necessary, but are not of themselves sufficient to create the necessary conditions for a democratisation process ». Time and experience are requested to endow people with the indispensable democratic responsibility. This maturity is being built day after day on dialogue, respect and solidarity —three principles that Congolese people have discovered only recently.

Therefore, the EU support should remain unbiased and constructive. Without any doubt, such a commitment contributes to advance Democracy in DRC ■