DR Congo + 2 more

Great Lakes Echoes: EurAc Bulletin No. 60 - Dec 2009

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The Third Republic is three years old. An anniversary without much to celebrate

Ever since the Third Republic was set up, EurAC has been advocating for local elections to be held, without which the democratic architecture of the Congo is incomplete. Not only are they essential to the restoration of legitimacy in a State that began to come apart less than a week after its independence, but they are also an essential element in transforming an embryonic democracy into an operational democracy. Local elections will play an essential role in the restoration of governance in the DRC. The election process at the decentralised entities' level will be a training ground for democracy and will contribute to the revitalisation of the political scene and the emergence of a new grass roots leadership. However, the organisation of local elections is not simple. It is a logistical nightmare, given that the state's infrastructure is in ruins, in a country the size of Europe. It is not cheap either, the legislative elections of 2006 were the most expensive in the history of the planet. Legislative work still has to be done and the institutional mechanisms are very complex. EurAC's members were very happy to receive, during their meeting in Madrid on 26th November, confirmation from the president of the Independent Electoral Commission that an inter-Linstitutional meeting between the Presidents of the Parliament, Senate,CEI, the Military High Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the Prime Minister, the Republic's prosecutor-general and the chief prosecutor of the Military High Court had raised fundamental options for municipal, urban and local elections and electoral deadlines for 2011. This is a colossal step, but we must remain vigilant. As we said in a joint statement with the civil society Initiative elections in the DRC, we are seeing a democratic deficit, which is worsened by a series of phenomena which are causing us grave concern: the institutions' lack of independence reinforces decision making being undertaken in unofficial circles; parliamentary debate is compromised by a weakened opposition. The debate on the revision of constitution makes us fear that the powers put in place at the last elections wants to perpetuate the current power balance. The key question is: does there exist, underlying all the practical, logistical, institutional and operational debates, enough political will to organise the elections? At present, it is impossible to speak about local elections without also speaking about the national elections in 2011. The absence of any real opposition is accelerating the PPRD's evolution towards a single party ideology; the President of the Republic is behaving almost like a Pharaoh, encircled by an ever tighter core of support, with an increasingly regionalist approach. Notably, the absence of any serious opposition means the current regime considers victory at the presidential and legislative elections to be an extremely accomplishable objective. Local elections must be considered as one of the few factors that could disrupt this course. They could create a space where new or existing political forces can find a new impetus, a new voice, a new electorate. There are people with good reasons for the local elections not to get organised.

Kris Berwouts
Director