DRC election date set

2010-08-10 17:35

Kinshasa - General elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be held on November 27 next year, when President Joseph Kabila's mandate expires, the national vote panel said on Tuesday.

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) announced that "the first round of the presidential election and of national parliamentary elections" has been fixed on November 27 2011.

In the event that no presidential candidate wins more than 50% of the ballots cast in the first round, a second round will be held on February 26 2012, at the same time as provincial assembly elections in the 11 provinces of the vast central African nation.

The new president will be sworn in on January 10 2012, if he is elected in the first round, and April 4 2012, if there is a second round.

Giving its timetable, the CEI also announced that senatorial elections would take place on June 13 2012, and those of the governors and deputy governors of provinces on July 12 by the provincial assemblies.

Local councillors and chieftains will be elected on January 31 2013, followed by the election of top community officials on May 19.

This long electoral process will close on August 8 2013, with the election of mayors and deputy mayors, concluded a statement signed by the rapporteur of the CEI, Dieudonne Mirimo Mulongo.

Electoral rolls

The publication of this electoral calendar comes less than two weeks after the creation of a new Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which is not operating yet but will take over from the CEI.

The CEI was set up in 2002, during negotiations to end a devastating war that raged across the country from 1998 to 2003, and which drew in the armies of half a dozen other African nations.

The previous marathon electoral process, once the fighting was over, went off mostly without incident, supervised by the UN mission in DRC, which remains the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, at more than 25 000 uniformed and civilian personnel.

In a second statement on Tuesday, the CEI announced "the pursuit of the operation to revise the electoral rolls" launched in Kinshasa in summer 2009.

The process is currently under way in the western Bas-Congo province and is due to be extended to Kasai Oriental in the centre, Maniema in the east and Katanga in the south-east.

Some 20 million people were registered on the previous electoral roll, out of a population estimated at 62 million in 2006, which has grown to 65 million in 2010.

First free elections

Kabila won the last presidential election in 2006 against Jean-Pierre Bemba, a businessman and former rebel leader who is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The previous polls, which were the first free elections in the DRC since its independence from Belgium in 1960, were almost totally financed by the international community to help the mineral-rich but devastated country out of years of warfare.

Those elections cost more than $500m.

At the end of 2009, the Congolese government announced that it would pay for the general elections of 2011-2013, but also declared itself open to "financial assistance from (foreign) partners in case of need".

Fighting still rages in the east of the country, where the DRC army is up against several rebel groups and armed militia.