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Election news: Calendar politics and the election law

The Congolese public has been waiting for weeks now for the election commission to publish their new calendar. The delays have fueled rumors about internal wrangling and quarrels. According to a high-ranking member of the opposition, the crux of the matter is whether elections can be held so that the president can be sworn in by December 6, 2011, five years exactly after Kabila took office in 2006. The current proposal made by election commissioner Daniel Mulunda Ngoy has the elections taking place on December 5, a date that has been rejected by the opposition as unconstitutional, as it would take weeks for the results to be counted.

The election commissioner is now asking to add several more weeks to the election calendar, and negotiations are ongoing, but even his initial proposal was optimistic. Insiders within the election commission suggest that they probably won’t have the time and funding to make sure elections are held by early December, meaning that Mulunda Ngoy might set an early election date to satisfy the political opposition but then force through a delay until 2012 when it becomes clear that the date is unrealistic.

The commission has, however, apparently scrapped plans of holding separate legislative and presidential elections. That’s a relief.

In the meantime, a new election law was rejected en masse by both opposition and majority in parliament yesterday. The MPs said that instead of submitting revisions to the old law the draft was a completely new law, with over a hundred new articles. But, while they rejected the law on procedural grounds, many are also not happy with its substance. The draft would have MPs elected on lists determined by their political parties in a winning list-takes all system. For example, in a district with 6 seats, if the UDPS list wins 51%, it will take all seats, even if some of their candidates were much less popular than individual candidates on other lists (if no party list gets the majority, they divvy up the seats proportionally).

This system is obviously unfavorable to small parties with no money that initially got elected in the past system that favored individuals, not lists. That’s what produced a national assembly with over 70 different political parties, a nightmare for collective action.

Making matters worse, the new charter of Kabila’s alliance, the Majorité Presidentielle (MP) gives the leadership of the MP the power to name the lists. For the incumbent parliamentarians, this spells disaster, as they do not trust the MP to treat them favorably.

For both of these reasons – the new MP charter and the list-system proposed – the electoral law is bound to be contentious.

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