DR Congo

Preliminary statement of the Carter Center on the DR Congo July 30, 2006 elections

Source
Posted
Originally published
This statement reflects the observations of The Carter Center on the events of the week leading up to and including the elections, and complements our two pre-election statements. For the July 30 vote, The Carter Center deployed a 58-member international delegation to observe the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) presidential and legislative elections, led by the Former Prime Minister of Canada Joe Clark and co-leader John Stremlau, Carter Center associate executive director for peace programs.
The Carter Center conducts its election observation in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation and Code of Conduct adopted at the United Nations in 2005. The Center was invited by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) and welcomed by all major political parties. Between April and July, Carter Center representatives observed in every province. We appreciate the important opportunities we have had for effective coordination with other international and domestic observers. The Carter Center has observed 63 elections around the world, 13 of them in Africa.

Summary of key findings:

- Voting took place on July 30 in a generally peaceful and orderly manner.

- Overall, polling stations were well organized and polling center staff competently fulfilled their duties.

- The impact of last-minute changes to voters' lists and polling stations cannot yet be adequately assessed.

- The campaign period was marked by a number of issues of concern, namely abuse of governmental authority.

- Close observation of the process will continue.

General observations

These historic elections are part of an extraordinary process of transition, which brought together warring parties and forged a consensus on the need for peace and democracy in the DRC. For any first elections such as these, we are well aware that the most demanding aspects of international elections standards cannot be entirely met. The development of democratic processes and institutions is a long-term project, which will require strong ongoing support from the international community. As part of the process of moving forward in the DRC's transition to a stable democracy, The Carter Center believes that the issues raised in this report, while preliminary, must be addressed.

Building on the work of long-term observers who have been in the field since April, all Carter Center teams observed the final days of the election campaign, the opening and closing of polling stations, voting operations, and the vote count. We have also begun to observe the compilation of results.

Election procedures were, on the whole, conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner throughout the country. Many polling stations experienced delayed openings, but voting was underway by 7 a.m. in most cases. Polling stations were generally well organized, and officials appeared to understand the proper discharge of their responsibilities. The Center was pleased to see numerous domestic election observers and poll watchers from multiple parties in voting centers.

Late changes by the CEI to procedures, voters' lists, and the number of polling stations, which fortunately seem to have caused operational disruptions in only some areas, nonetheless undermined the safeguards intended to guarantee integrity and transparency. The ultimate impact of such late changes remains to be seen.

The Campaign

The campaign period in the DRC, although largely peaceful and democratic, was characterized by a number of issues of concern to The Carter Center. As we have previously noted, political parties did not always make the best use of the campaign period to inform and educate the electorate on matters of concern to them, and there was fairly widespread destruction of campaign materials. We have further observed that, in a number of cases, those who had access to the levers of power misused their authority and access to public resources during the campaign, by:

- Misusing security personnel to obstruct legitimate democratic activity,

- Imposing bureaucratic and practical obstacles on the free movement of candidates, and

- Obstructing candidates' campaign material at ports of entry.

Inequitable and politically-biased media coverage was also an issue throughout the campaign, which, despite some good efforts, the High Media Authority (HAM) was unable to resolve satisfactorily, primarily due to its lack of enforcement powers. The burning and looting of buildings housing the HAM and the National Human Rights Observatory (ONDH), and serious attacks on some employees, during a large presidential campaign rally in Kinshasa, was a further blow to two already under-resourced institutions of the democratic transition.

Voting procedures

Carter Center observers reported some procedural irregularities and others have been brought to our attention. On the whole, these appear to be minor, but we have urged all actors to take their concerns to the appropriate channels, and The Carter Center itself will continue to observe the process closely. The cumbersome ballot papers for the legislative elections in certain constituencies caused some difficulty for voters, compounded by comparatively small polling booths. Crowded voting conditions, makeshift outdoor facilities and the improper placement of polling booths (often to compensate for poor lighting) did not adequately protect the secrecy of voting in some places.

A significant proportion of the Center's observers found that voters' lists were not posted as required at polling stations. Some stations did not receive all of their election materials, notably the lists of omitted voters and lists of voters struck from the roll (generated by the CEI in response to missing and corrupted registration data and the elimination of fraudulently registered voters). These missing materials, which were produced very late by the CEI, generated suspicions and may have resulted in some legitimate voters being unable to cast their ballots. In other polling stations, even where the additional lists were available, they were not always properly consulted. Election officials also did not always consistently check voters for indelible ink or confirm that the photo on the card matched the cardholder. On their own, these deficiencies did not seem to cause undue operational problems, but when taken together, they weakened important safeguards designed to verify the identity of voters.

Police were visible, but not intrusive at most polling locations. There were serious breaches of security in several places, including the destruction of a number of polling stations as well as attempts to prevent voters from entering certain voting centers. While significant and deplorable, these attacks were clearly the exception, and the Center is pleased that the CEI immediately took steps to reopen these polling stations by sending new material.

Tabulation

Initial observations of the tabulation suggest that experiences vary widely across the country. In some areas, very few results envelopes had arrived in the Local Results Tabulation Center (CLCR) as this statement was prepared. This may be due to the fact that votes were still being counted in many polling stations, but it also appears that the CEI does not have an adequate collection plan to ensure timely delivery of results to all CLCRs. In other cases, CLCRs have received results but do not possess the necessary resources or organization to process them efficiently. Bottlenecks have been reported in the reception of materials, and there are cases of continued confusion and tensions around the issue of payment to poll center staff. We urge the CEI to make the smooth and effective functioning of the CLCRs (especially transport of results) a top priority.

This results process will take weeks to complete, and that will require patience on the part of all parties and the population in general. Given the need for transparency, the CEI must ensure that final results are published for each polling station and that they may be cross-checked by party poll watchers and observers.

Carter Center teams will remain deployed throughout the country to observe the ongoing tabulation process. We hope that any election disputes can be resolved openly through the appropriate legal channels or mediation efforts, and that the final results are accepted with confidence by all.

The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. To learn more about The Carter Center, please visit: www.cartercenter.org.

CONTACT:

In Atlanta: Jon Moor +1-404-420-5107
In Kinshasa: Colin Stewart +243-81-199-6643
or Sophie Khan +243-81-199-6641