23 candidates gang up against President Tshisekedi ahead of DR Congo December elections

On January 24, 2019 when then President elect Felix Tshisekedi took the oath in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) he broke the curse of not witnessing peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

The central African country that is now a partner state in the East African Community Economic Block had changed presidents through the barrel of the gun until Joseph Kabila succumbed to pressure and stepped down from seeking a third elective term. The country’s constitution provides for two terms for a President serving them consecutively to leave office.

Definitely, all eyes are on President Tshisekedi to see if he can leave office peacefully should he lose the bid for a second term in the December 20, 2023 elections or begins to prepare for the second peaceful transition of power in 2028 if he is declared winner for a second term.

Tshisekedi whose father Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba was a long time opposition leader, may be about to face 23 other candidates in the battle for the top seat in December.

Sunday October 8, was the cut-off day for the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to register interests by Congolese who seek to be nominated as candidates for the elections.

Tshisekedi, 60, is expected by many to win the election but with fierce competition from the runner-up of the 2018 elections, Martin Fayulu. The Lamuka coalition candidate who continues to claim that he was rigged out of victory in 2018 had remained undecided on whether to run this year but the former Oil and Gas Executive recently confirmed that he had been registered with CENI.

“The LAMUKA coalition has decided to submit my candidacy for the December 2023 presidential elections on Wednesday October 4. We continue our fight for transparency of results. These must be proclaimed polling station by polling station. All my thanks to the compatriots who fight for the integrity, peace and prosperity of the DRC” said Fayulu.

The 66 year-old and leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, was announced winner by the Congolese Catholic church in a shocking protest to the official results, claiming that Tshisekedi’s total votes did not tally with the results tallied by its 40,000 observers scattered across the country.

Fayulu who has spent most of the last four years holding rallies in the different parts of DRC despite getting registered by CENI for the forthcoming polls still insists that “the truth of the ballot box must absolutely prevail this time” as a price for profound and essential change in the country.

In the last elections, the battle for the Presidency attracted 21 candidates with Tshisekedi winning with 7,051,013 votes (38.56 percent), closely followed by Fayulu who garnered 6,366,732 votes (34.82 percent), while Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary     came third with 4,357,359 votes (23.83 percent). The remaining 18 candidates shared a minimal 509,715 votes of the total valid ballots counted in an election that attracted 18.3m voters out of the officially registered 38.5m voters.

The candidates

With about 43.9m voters expected to be eligible to go to the polls in December, the process will pit the old rivals, first-time contenders, and previously sidelined presidential hopefuls against incumbent Tshisekedi. With this crowded field, there are views that the opposition vote could be divided hence paving an easier way for Tshisekedi to secure a second term.

Away from Tshisekedi and Fayulu, other prominent figures battling for the top office in the land include; Denis Mukwege the winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize; Moïse Katumbi the former Governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province; Marie-Josée Ifoku the only female candidate in the last elections and a former Governor of the Tshuapa Province; Matata Ponyo Mapon a former Prime Minister between 2012 and 2016; and, Théodore Ngoy who ran for the office in 2005 and is a Protestant pastor of the Gombe Church.

Road Map to polls

Candidates for all the electoral positions have already been nominated by the CENI and campaign programs are commencing on November 19. These campaigns are for candidates for President,National Assembly, and provincial assemblies. The lower rank commune councils that are equivalent to Uganda’s local governments will run for 15 days from December 4-18.

The president is elected by plurality voting in one round which is a system that allows the electoral body to declare the candidate who polls more than any other is elected.

The national assembly sitting in Kinshasa has 500 seats where the members are elected by two methods.

In electoral districts having been allocated only one seat, members are elected using first-past-the-post voting; while in those allocated multiple seats, the members are elected by open list proportional representation, with seats assigned using the largest remainder method.

The provincial assembly elections also use the same two methods for electing members. For the commune councils all members of a council are in a single multi-member district and are elected using the open list method.

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