Shortly after Vital Kamerhe submitted a lawsuit to the Supreme Court yesterday, doubts were raised in public and private about the case. (You can read it here). In the complaint, Kamerhe asked for the cancellation of the polls and a new vote.
Of course, the main doubt about Kamerhe’s success resides in the perceived bias of the Supreme Court – just a month before elections, the president named 18 new judges to add the eight previous members, ostensibly to help with their heavy work burden. However, many opposition and civil society members think that these newcomers are politically biased.
Other doubts have also been raised regarding Kamerhe’s complaint.
Le Potentiel, hardly a newspaper favorable to the government, suggested that Kamerhe may not have fulfilled the legal requirements. The electoral law requires complaints to be filed either in the name of an organization or as an individual. Kamerhe submits his claim in the name of his UNC party (although I’m not sure he annexed his nomination as president of the party), which leaves him unable to raise points concerning Tshisekedi and the opposition as a whole. I am not too concerned by this procedural nuance, as the UNC is not arguing the fine points of the elections – he wants the whole thing to be cancelled, so it doesn’t really matter whether he does this in the name of the opposition or the UNC.
I am more concerned by the substance. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that a lawsuit should submit as much proof as possible to substantiate its claims. In this document, the UNC makes the following points:
- The voter list should be published and posted in polling stations thirty days before the vote. It was not;
- The list of polling stations itself should be published 30 days before the vote. It was not;
- In many polling stations, opposition witnesses were not allowed to sign the proces verbaux (minutes) and were prevented from accompanying the ballots from polling station to compilation center;
- UNC witnesses were not given access to the National Treatment Center were comprehensive results were compiled;
- Pre-marked ballots favoring Kabila were found before elections began, and in many polling stations there were not enough ballots for the voters;
- Kabila used state assets for his campaign, including airplanes and public vehicles, and putting posters on public buildings;
- Finally, he cites around a dozen polling stations with suspicious results.
All of these complaints may well be true; they mirror what the Carter Center and the EU have said. But there was no proof (PVs, pre-marked ballots, police reports, affidavits) that accompanied this claim, at least to my knowledge.
One problem was that Kamerhe had little time to produce the lawsuit – the law only provides for two working days after the declaration of preliminary results. The Supreme Court then only has 7 days to judge the matter.
One positive note is that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case in a public hearing, not behind closed doors as was initially feared.