afrol News, 5 May - Congo Kinshasa (DRC) authorities plan to hold the 5 December constitutional deadline to hold elections, but observers warn the vast country is in no way prepared to do so.
Faced with the dilemma of respecting the constitutional deadline and organising botched elections, or ignoring that deadline and sliding into a situation of unconstitutional power, the Congolese authorities recently chose the first option.
Now, the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG) in a new report warns about the risks faced as Kinshasa authorities are preparing for their second set of democratic elections.
At the last crossroads, in 2006, the UN and its peacekeeping mission plaid a vital role in preparing and organising the elections in the vast country.
Now, the ICG warns, "technical preparations are lagging. Neither the new electoral law, the voters list nor the budget are ready. Registration is already controversial, funding of the electoral cycle is incomplete, and the electoral calendar is problematic," the report says.
Congolese President Joseph Kabila's ruling party has already launched its campaign before the official start of the electoral season, while the opposition is still struggling to find its "champion" for the presidential contest.
"Instead of signalling a consolidation of democracy, the elections present at best a logistical problem, at worst a new cause of destabilisation for a country still recovering from the wars that cost millions of lives at the end of the Mobutu era," warns ICG analyst Marc-André Lagrange.
"Congolese politicians and the international community should anticipate now the very real possibility that the constitutional deadline cannot be met, despite the calendar the Electoral Commission recently released," the ICG urges.
The analysts propose negotiating a transition agreement with the opposition, setting a deadline for organising the elections and limiting the business of government to routine matters during the transition. This would "avoid having an unconstitutional postponement of the elections become a crisis of legitimacy."
"The only way out of this Catch-22 situation is to both speed up preparations and negotiate an emergency electoral calendar and a political agreement to manage the postponement and consequent transition period that are likely to be necessary," the ICG advises.
The analysts indeed fear that Congo Kinshasa could "become trapped in a biased process that could all too easily become as violent as that which Côte d'Ivoire recently experienced" if the current course of the electoral process is not changed.
"The electoral dilemma the authorities face could spread to the streets, and if the present electoral calendar is not respected, the unconstitutional postponement of the vote will become a crisis of legitimacy", warns ICG analyst Thierry Vircoulon.
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