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The AMP conclave: Another step towards 2011 elections

For those who didn’t know it: The election season is definitely upon us, even though we are still 13 months away from the polls. After the PPRD’s summit in Kisangani in August, it was the presidential AMP coalition’s turn to meet at the president’s ranch in Kingakati this weekend. The president and his entourage are intent on preserving their broad-based coalition, so they took this opportunity to discuss electoral strategy, constitutional revision and the composition of the national electoral commission (CENI).

As Alex Engwete points out in his nice posting, the conclave took place amid a lot of mudslinging between Kabila’s camp and prominent former allies such as Kudura Kasongo (former presidential spokesperson turned TV presenter – see here for the bizarre transformation of one of the most hardline Kabila enforcers to a critic) and Vital Kamerhe.

The result of the meeting was to resolutely seal (of course) the unity of the AMP coalition and to confirm that there would only be one presidential candidate: Joseph Kabila. This is important insofar as several of the coalition members had proposed their own candidate for the 2006 polls, such as Mbusa Nyamwisi (RCD-ML), and the last thing Kabila needs at the moment is for more people to enter the race, which could prevent him from winning the all-important first round of elections in 2011.

The meeting also brought up the issue of constitutional revision. According to Kinshasa newspapers (and here), they recommended 8 articles of the current constitution for revision:

  • Article 226, which calls for the creation of 26 provinces out of the current 11 (Kinshasa + 10) within 36 months of the installation of the elected institutions. Note that they do not want to call into question the creation of new provinces (the so-called “découpage), as that would be unconstitutional, they just want to change the deadline for doing so (the last one lapsed in May 2010). So this is a sly way of buying more time;
  • Article 71, which says that the second round of presidential elections has to be held within 15 days of the first round of elections. I agree, this provision never made much sense, as it takes at least that long just to print the new ballots and distribute them – last time they had two months;
  • Article 149: I haven’t seen exactly what they want to change about this, but this could be dangerous, as article cements the independence of the courts. Any change to this would be unconstitutional;
  • Articles 197&198: These articles regulate the functioning of provincial parliaments, which have been extremely unruly for the past four years – the newspapers in Kinshasa suggest that they want to change “the management of crises in the provincial institutions.” Hmmm.
  • Also: Articles 126 & 110. You can read all of them in the constitution here.

Almost as notable as what they brought up were the clauses that they have not recommended for changing (if we can rely on the Kinshasa papers): presidential term limits, which would have Kabila out of office after another five year term; and the proportional representation electoral system, which the presidency has wanted to change to have a more manageable parliament.

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