Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Kinshasa voter frustration

Jardin Zoologique de Kinshasa
 32 million Congolese registered to vote in the operation carried out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) that recently came to a close. This is up from 25 million during the previous round five years ago. The process was highly politicized and took place despite major technical and logistical obstacles.

The registration situation in Kinshasa, where the population voted massively for Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2005 - and where President Kabila remains unpopular - was analyzed by Guy De Boeck in the Revue Dialogue n° 35. Although the expected figure was 3.5 million, 3.3 million people registered in the capital.

Four categories of problems were identified.
(i) Technical and logistical obstacles included the long distance some people had to walk to reach a registration center (up to 15 km), disorder in queues, delays in processing due to computer breakdowns or the lack of election kits and the issuance of cards that are not conform to standards.

(ii) ‘social’ problems: because electoral agents were not paid, they took excessively long breaks  and aggravated the waiting period. They also insisted on people paying for their voter registration cards, which is against the free and fair logic of the process.

(iii) establishing the real identity of voters was a major problem. Police officers served as electoral agents and there was poor communication about voting procedures.  Candidates anxious to boost votes in their constituencies bussed people to their voting districts outside of the Kinshasa city limits.

(iv) a host of psychological factors were also reported. People are frustrated by the lack of social and democratic progress since voting five years ago so are discouraged by the electoral process. They believe Bemba won in 2005 but was robbed of his rights.  Changing the rules of the game – going from two elections rounds to one – is perceived as a harbinger of fraud and manipulation. There is clear lack of confidence in the CENI.

Kinois do not have high expectations and are largely disillusioned by the electoral process. The CENI probably did not make it particularly easy for registration in Kinshasa given Kabila’s general lack of popularity there. In the probable event of a Kabila victory nationwide, the key question is whether or not they will transform apathy into mobilization. This will be determined largely by the mots d’ordre given by opposition leaders.

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