CANDIDATES from the ruling party in the Democratic Republic of Congo were elected on Saturday as governors and deputy governors in 14 of the nation’s 21 newly drawn provinces.
The ruling coalition, known as the Presidential Majority, won in all but five of the new provinces, said the Independent National Electoral Commission, or CENI, in a statement e-mailed from the capital, Kinshasa. The vote in Sud Ubangui province was delayed and in Nord Ubangui province extended to a second round runoff, CENI said.
The indirect ballot, in which governors and deputy governors are elected byprovincial assemblies, was due to be held in October but was delayed. The vote is part of a series of about a dozen elections originally scheduled to take place between October 2015 and November 2016, culminating in a planned vote for a new president.
Congo’s opposition says that the postponement of the gubernatorial election and other votes is part of a ruling party strategy to delay elections and allow President Joseph Kabila to hold on to power.
He is yet to make his plans known, as his second term winds down. Last month a strike shut some schools and businesses in the country, in an attempt to increase pressure on Kabila to leave when his mandate expires at the end of this year.
Students and workers were called to participate by groups including La Dynamique, a coalition known as the G7 and the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Most of Congo’s opposition parties backed the action, known as “villes-mortes,” or dead cities, including the UDPS, the largest group opposed to Kabila’s rule.
There were no reported major incidents of violence in that strike, with a presidential vote set for November.
The opposition says the crowded election programme will be used to postpone the presidential vote and allow Kabila to remain in power.
Kabila won elections in 2006 and 2011 and the constitution bars him from running for a third term.
New provincial boundaries were drawn up in July, when the country’s 11 administrative regions were divided into 26. The decentralisation process was outlined in the 2006 constitution, though Kabila only ordered its implementation a year ago.
Since a Constitutional Court ruling in September that the government could take “exceptional measures” to maintain “peace and security” in the new provinces, they had been run by directly appointed special commissioners.
Richard Muyej, the country’s former interior minister, was elected as governor of Lualaba province in the copper-producing region of Katanga, where Freeport McMoran and Glencore Plc both control major mining projects. Since September Muyej has served as special commissioner for the province.
Congo is Africa’s biggest producer of copper and tin, the world’s largest source of cobalt and a major exporter of gold. (Bloomberg)