DR Congo has closed voting stations following the elections to bring about the first peaceful transfer of power since their independence in 1960. However, delays and failures have left people frustrated.
President Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 17 years in charge of the country, but elections were supposed to be held in 2016 before being delayed because of logistical problems, according to officials.
Congo Elections Chaos
Electronic voting stations failed throughout the country, which caused issues. The voting machines have long been controversial. Diplomats and the opposition have said that they could enable fraud.
Opposition leaders have also said that something could be amiss with the elections as several candidates were excluded from being on the ballot, including exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi and former Vice President and acquitted war crimes suspect Jean-Pierre Bemba.
The run-up to the poll had been hit by violence and controversy over the decision to exclude some 1.26 million out of an electorate of nearly 40 million from voting.
Congo’s Presidential Candidates
21 people are on the ballot to become President of Congo, but there are three main frontrunners.
- Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister and Kabila loyalist, who was hit by European Union sanctions for his role in the violent suppression of opposition protests in 2017
- Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive who has promised “a dignified and prosperous Congo”, but who poor Congolese feel may not advance their cause
- Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the son of a late veteran opposition leader who has promised to make the fight against poverty his priority
Why Were Voters Banned?
Last week, the government in Congo unexpectedly banned around one million people from voting in the general elections. These people were from Beni and Butembo, where an Ebola outbreak spread.
Protestors argued that the electoral commission had allowed candidates to campaign in the regions, and Ebola centres were attacked in the aftermath of the decision.
The International Rescue Committee had said that Congo was dangerously politicising the outbreak. Polling station workers were prepared to screen for the virus during the elections.
Officials of Congo are expected to announce the results in around a week.