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Further blows to the democratic process

On Thursday, the national assembly elected its new leadership, placing Aubin Minaku at its head. However, the process was controversial, as the opposition is claiming that the majority manipulated the vote and discarded the candidates it had proposed.

According to the assembly’s by-laws, the seats in the various offices of the assembly are distributed in proportion to the strength of the political coalitions. Since the opposition has around one third of the 500 seats in the assembly, they were given two of the seven positions in the office: the second vice president and the deputy reporter. These positions were supposed to be given to the two strongest opposition parties: the UDPS and MLC, who had nominated Samy Badibanga and Angelique Milemba, respectively. These candidates were backed by the other main opposition parties, as well.

However, the majority substituted the opposition candidates for two other MPs of their picking: Timothée Kimbo (UDPS) and Tshimanga Bwana (ADR). Both are in theory in the opposition – or at least not officially part of the majority – but are not recognized as legitimate candidates by the rest of the opposition.

In a meeting with opposition MPs, Aubin Minaku himself lamented the process, but said that he had no say in how things had unfolded. Some MPs speculate that members of the ruling party who oppose Minaku arranged the coup so that Minaku’s legitimacy and relations with the opposition would be compromised, while others just thing this is a sign of the hardline position of the ruling majority. The mood within the opposition was so bad that in their denunciation, they accused Kabila of being a traitor; some MPs didn’t even want to refer to him as the president, just the “autorité morale du pays.”

Either way, this is a bad sign of how the ruling party intends to deal with the opposition. After the flawed elections, some thought that Kabila would be anxious to secure his legitimacy by reaching out to the opposition and encouraging them to participate in the democratic process. Far from it.

In the meantime, the opposition is suffering a crisis of its own, with Etienne Tshisekedi officially invalidating the seats of 33 of its 42 MPs who decided to participate in the national assembly, despite their leader’s call for a boycott. Also, Christian Badibangi, another opposition heavyweight, broke ranks with the rest of the opposition by endorsing the election of the assembly’s new leaders.

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