Kabila and Bemba Face off in Second Round: The First Round of Voting in Presidential Elections in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Failed to Produce an Outright Winner and So a Second Round of Polling Will Be Required. the Country, and Africa, Waits with Bated Breath. Report by Neil Ford
Ford, Neil, African Business
Although the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, held a large lead over his nearest rival and took 45% of the vote, he failed to secure an absolute majority and must now face a run-off in the presidential election.
The publication of the results triggered violence in Kinshasa but it is hoped that the new round of campaigning will pass off peace-fully, as the Central African state struggles to re-establish itself as a viable and stable nation.
Kabila's opponent in the presidential run off will be Jean-Pierre Bemba, who serves as one of the country's vice-presidents in the current government of national unity and formerly led one of the factions in DR Congo's civil war.
Bemba secured 20% of the votes overall and proved the most popular candidate in most of western DR Congo, including around Kinshasa. Antoine Gizenga came third, with 13%, and won more votes than anyone else in provinces immediately to the east of Kinshasa. The other main candidates, Nzanga Mobutu and Oscar Kashala, secured 5% and 4% of the vote respectively. Turn-out was relatively healthy at 70%, in what was the country's first democratic election for 40 years.
Some incidents of polling irregularities were uncovered and European Union observers revealed that some ballot boxes had been burnt in Kinshasa, but the international community believes that the result will reflect the broad will of the people. However, Bemba and some of the other candidates claimed that there had been widespread fraud.
Kabila was the most popular candidate in the eastern half of the country, including in mineral rich Katanga and in the northeast of the country, which has suffered most from fighting in recent years. In some eastern provinces he won over 90% of the vote, including an overwhelming 97% in the town of Bukavu, so his challenge will be to win more votes in the Lingala-speaking west of the country. Bemba seems unlikely to overcome the 25% deficit from the first round of voting, but his best chance seems to rest in attracting the votes of the other candidates who will now have to drop out of the contest.
Aside from the result, most attention is focused on the security situation during the prolonged election. It was initially believed that the need for a second round of voting would help sustain the calm situation, as supporters of the two main candidates would have a breathing space before the second round.
It was also hoped that the failure of either candidate to secure 50% of the vote would prove to the Congolese people that the election had not been fixed. Yet, although the first round of polling passed off fairly calmly, violence broke out on the streets of Kinshasa when the results were announced in August.
In some tense African elections, supporters of rival political parties have clashed but in this case fighting took place in the capital between troops loyal to the two remaining candidates.
As president, Kabila can call on a strong presidential guard, while Bemba's presence in Kinshasa is backed by a bodyguard believed to number several thousand.
At least eight people are known to have died in the fighting, which stretched the resources of the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in the country.
Unstable situation controlled
Although conflict in the northeast of DR Congo was the main fear at one stage, the UN force is now most concerned about possible further conflict in Kinshasa. The city's population has been boosted by an influx of refugees over the past few years and the mix of ethnic and political groups could provoke some friction.
In addition, Bemba won 51% of the vote in the first round, against just 17% for Kabila, so Bemba is likely to win another outright majority in the city in the second round. As a result, if Kabila wins, a president will be installed in a city that did not vote for him. …