Uncertainty As DRC Sets Election Date To Replace Kabila
Rights groups and opposition politicians have issued concern as DRC President Joseph Kabila looks set to remain leader for another 14 months, having held power for the past 16 years.
After delaying a presidential vote because of violence, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) on Sunday set a date for the election – December 23, 2018.
Elections were meant to take place in November 2016, but officials said the vote was postponed because of deadly violence in the Kasai region and logistical hurdles.
The country has seen widespread anger over what some see as President Kabila’s refusal to relinquish power after his second full term ended in December 2016.He had taken power after his father was assassinated in 2001, and was elected in 2006 and 2011.
According to the constitution, Kabila cannot seek a third term.
Shortly after Sunday’s announcement, Felix Tshisekedi, opposition leader, called for protests.
The election commission’s calendar “will sound the death knell of the regime,” Tshisekedi said, writing on Twitter.
The announcement came little more than one week after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s visit to DRC, who before meeting Kabila said elections should take place by the end of 2018.
“We knew elections would not be held this year. What is more surprising is the relatively arbitrary change in dates: the commission had initially said it would take them exactly 504 days after voter registration to hold elections,” Jason Sterns, head of the Congo Research Group, told Al Jazeera. “Then suddenly, after Nikki Haley asked them to hold elections in 2018, they somehow cut that period down to 300 days.
“It appears they made that change just to satisfy donor pressure, with few guarantees whether this schedule will be respected.”