Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 35, November 2011

SADC deploys for DRC polls

by Kizito Sikuka

Southern Africa’s biggest-ever election observer mission will observe the 28
November general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 200 observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will
monitor DRC’s second democratic elections since independence in 1960.

According to a statement by SADC, South African Correctional Services Minister,
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will lead the SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) which
was deployed on 11November.

A total of 11 presidential candidates will take part in the elections, including the
incumbent Joseph Kabila who is seeking a second term.

Kabila has been in power since 2001 following the death of his father the same year.
In 2006, he won the country’s first democratic elections after years of unrest.

Other presidential candidates include veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi
of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, and Vital Kamerhe, a former
election campaign manger for Kabila who now heads the Congolese National Party.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who came second in the 2006 presidential election, is not taking
part in the election as he is facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC)
for alleged crimes against humanity committed by his rebel troops in the Central
African Republic in 2002.

According to an Electoral Reform Bill approved by the Parliament, the President and
500 Members of Parliament would be elected for five-year terms by simple majority,
with no second round of voting.

In the previous election, a candidate needed to win 50 percent-plus-one votes to be
elected president. A second round of voting was previously required pitting the top
two candidates to determine the winner in the event that none of the presidential
candidates garnered more than half of the votes.

In the 2006 election Kabila won 44.81 percent of votes in the first round poll in
July while his closest rival, Bemba, had 20.03 percent.

This prompted the holding of a run-off poll in October of the same year in which
Kabila won 58.05 percent of the ballots against 41 percent for Bemba.

More than 18,500 candidates will contest for 500 seats in a parallel parliamentary
election, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

More than 32 million voters have registered for the elections. This represents a
significant increase compared to about 25.6 million that registered for the previous
election.

As per tradition, the SEOM will monitor the electoral process in three phases,
namely, the pre-election, the election and the post-election periods.

After the polls, SEOM will release a draft report on how the elections were
conducted, with a final report coming later. This is in line with the SADC
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourage Member
States to promote common political values and systems.

The SADC observer team is expected to interact with other regional and international
missions such as the African Union and European Union teams that have been invited
to monitor the elections.

The conduct of the different observer missions will be guided by the Constitution
and electoral laws of the DRC.

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