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Constitutional questions loom large during election season

As we wait (still) for the election commission to publish the new electoral calendar, many wonder what would happen if the results of presidential elections come in after December 6th.

On Radio Okapi, Professor Jean-Louis Esambo, the president of the Association of Congolese Constitionalists (indeed), argued that President Kabila mandate would become “illegitimate but legal.” He justifies this mind-bender by referring to Article 70 of the constitution:

The President of the Republic is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years, renewable only once. At the end of his mandate, the President of the Republic stays in power until the installation of a newly elected President.

A bit confusing. In other words, the honorable professor argues that the section about his “staying in power until there is a new president” supersedes the previous section about him only being in power for five years. I’m not a lawyer to take issue with the president of Congolese constitutional lawyers, but the article does seem a bit ambiguous to me. The united political opposition (UNC, UDPS and MLC) certainly thinks so, as they made clear at a meeting two days ago, where they insisted that after December 6th the president would become “illegitimate.” Which is different than illegal, as the professor has pointed out. But elsewhere in their speech, they suggested that his continued stay in power would violate the constitution – so it would be illegal?

It is certainly confusing. To make matters worse, the constitutional court, which is supposed to interpret the constitution and make the final call on such matters, has little credibility with the opposition, which sees it as allied to Kabila. I believe they would say it is illegitimate. Not illegal.

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