RB led Carter centre cites anomalies in Congolese polls

RB led Carter centre cites anomalies in Congolese polls

On election day, Carter Center observers visited nearly 300 polling stations across the 10 provinces and Kinshasa. The following preliminary remarks reflect some of the Center’s initial observations and will be supplemented by additional reports as the results process is completed.

Former president Rupiah Banda in the field

  • The Independent National Election Commission’s (CENI) administration of the election was wrought with logistical and budgetary challenges.
  • On multiple important election preparations, CENI operations deviated from the electoral calendar.  The original candidate nomination period was extended; identification of polling stations was completed late; the voter lists were not posted at all polling stations as required by law by Oct. 28; and essential election materials, notably ballot papers, were delivered at the last minute.
  • The international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, South Africa, Angola, and others, has provided crucial financial and material support to the government of the DRC.
  • The official campaign period was largely peaceful and competitive, though marred by deaths and arrests when police responded to demonstrations.
  • It is noteworthy that half of the registered voters in Congo are women, though they were not among the presidential candidates and composed only 10 percent of legislative candidates.
  • The Center also commends CENI for being established as an independent administrative organ that oversaw an election with more than 32 million registered voters, 11 presidential candidates, and more than 18,000 legislative candidates. On election day, a majority of polling stations observed had the necessary materials and CENI is to be congratulated for the final push to ensure that the polls could open on Nov. 28. However, essential materials, most importantly ballot papers and voter lists were absent in a significant number of cases.
  • The appropriate polling station workers were present in most places visited. Observers reported a range of irregularities in voting procedures, notably failures to check voters hands for ink or to apply it properly after voting, which is an important safeguard against multiple voting.
  • Many voters struggled to find their names on posted lists at voting centers and would have benefited from more CENI assistance.
  • Some poll workers were unsure of procedures for handling voters with voter cards but who were not on the voter list despite a last minute CENI decision to allow such individuals to vote.
  • Candidate witnesses and domestic observers were well-represented in nearly all polling stations visited.
  • With the results compilation process underway, official voter turnout is unknown but it was evident to observers that large numbers of Congolese voters were determined to exercise their fundamental political rights and participate in democratic elections. Despite the many obstacles facing the conduct of these elections, the voters have exhibited an extraordinary commitment to peace and democracy.
  • CENI’s civic and voter education efforts were inadequate to prepare voters to thoroughly understand the overall process, relying instead of international and domestic non-governmental organizations.
  • The government established a media monitoring body, the Superior Council of Audiovisual Communications (CSAC), but only one month before the start of the campaign, leaving it with too little time to become a fully effective institution. Despite some significant decisions, CSAC’s late establishment may have compromised its legal duty to verify that all candidates had equitable media access.
  • Constitutional amendments in January 2011 changed the election system from a two-round voting system to a plurality-based system and reforms were introduced to the electoral law in August.  A code of conduct to govern candidate activity during the elections was developed but unfortunately one of the presidential candidates failed to sign.
  • The Carter Center observed the closing and counting process and will remain deployed for the compilation of results.  Advance preparation of the compilation centers, including such basic needs as lighting, furniture, and computers, has been inadequate and CENI must intensify its efforts to ensure that the voice of the Congolese people is respected, recorded, and communicated in a manner that is secure and transparent.
  • The publication of election results by polling station as required by the electoral law will be the single best means to ensure that the elections reflect the will of the people.
  • Electoral dispute resolution mechanisms in both CENI and the court system lack wide accessibility to citizens and are perceived by many Congolese to be partial.  Nevertheless Congolese should make use of all avenues of appeal in the event that they have complaints about any aspect of the electoral process.
  • Candidates and voters alike should remain calm and await CENI’s announcement of official preliminary results due by Dec. 6.

Background: The Carter Center election observation mission has been in the DRC since Aug. 17, 2011, following an invitation from CENI. The mission was led by former President of Zambia Rupiah Bwezani Banda and Vice President of Carter Center Peace Programs Dr. John Stremlau and is composed of 70 observers from 27 countries.

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