DRC: What happened after December 20 in the Congolese electoral process?

DRC: What happened after December 20 in the Congolese electoral process?

The opacity of these six days of extension casts doubt on the provisional results published by the Ceni.

This Thursday, December 28, the Election Observation Mission (MoE) led by the Catholic and Protestant Churches presented its “preliminary declaration”, based on the observation of nearly 25,000 observers in the polling stations on the 20 December, the day declared for the vote.

Given the chaos evident that day, and documented by this MoE, millions of Congolese were unable to exercise their right to vote. The reasons are the absence of machines, offices closed or opened very late, computer breakdowns.

The Ceni, through its president Denis Kadima, therefore decreed without the approval of the Constitutional Court which should have ruled on this decision, to extend the poll by one day. Then, sometimes to the surprise even of the CENI staff working at Kinshasa HQ, witnesses discovered that polling stations were still opening every day, in the four corners of the country in apparent disorganization and completely illegally. .

Just one day

With the extreme caution that characterizes them, the spokespersons of the Catholic and Protestant Church, after discussing the reports received from their observers on December 20 (42,796) and the concerns raised at numerous levels, looked at length at “analysis of the national legal framework”. They thus returned to article 52 of the Electoral Law which stipulates that “voting for the direct ballot is held on Sunday or a public holiday. It takes place from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, the CENI official gives the token to the voters present and the voting continues until the last voter with the token votes.

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Which explains in particular why the Congolese government had to decree Wednesday, December 20 as a paid, non-working day.

The MoE still insists that “the extension of voting and counting operations until December 21” was announced by press releases and not court decisions, raising culpable levity on the part of the presidency of the CENI.

The MoE continues: “the Ceni informs that no polling station should open after this date”. However, without possible discussion, the elections continued until… December 27.

Changing the calendar

These leg kicks to the legislation therefore modified the electoral calendar. “It is urgent that the authorized bodies assess the legality of the voting operations which took place on the day of December 21, 2023”. A little further on, the report further mentions that the vote ultimately took place until December 27, contrary to what the press releases said. “It is therefore a question of knowing what fate the Ceni and other authorized bodies reserve for the votes collected after December 21,” adds the text.

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A whole series of remarks which, despite the calls for restraint launched this Thursday, did not prevent the CENI from allowing a little music to be broadcast which would suggest that the outgoing president Félix Tshisekedi would already have, on the basis of 75% of the offices stripped, of a lead which guarantees him the final victory.

One candidate stands out

To establish this conviction, the proponents of the regime also base themselves on a small sentence from the conclusions of the preliminary report which says “that one candidate largely stood out from the others with more than half of the votes alone”.

For the Tsisekedists, who discovered their leader in the lead on the CENI table with nearly 75% of the votes, there is no doubt that this candidate is their favorite. “It is not that simple, explains a political scientist attentive to the count. “What is certain is that the evolution of the figures, already questionable on December 20, raises serious questions of credibility the next day. Obviously, the work of the MoE only concerns the day of December 20. The rest is invisible to observers who were only able to see what was happening in the polling stations, not in the bedrooms, living rooms or other private places where voting machines stuffed by candidates or candidates were discovered. allies of power”.

The only evidence is that the voting machines which thus found themselves at large were the exclusive property and responsibility of the CENI and were systematically lost in the hands of sympathizers of power. Evidence corroborated in particular by observers from the NGO La Voix des sans Voix, who point to “certain ministers, governors, national and provincial deputies and senators” in these embezzlements.

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These different elements explain the “caution” of the MoE with regard to the CENI figures and the results returned after December 20. They also justify their request to the Ceni to “specify the number of polling stations which opened on December 20 and those which opened after this date, also providing information on the number of voting machines and ballots which were used there regularly”.

To the extent that what happened after December 20 has not, or very rarely, been documented by observers, this request from the MoE is essential to understand the suspicious evolution of the figures after December 20 ”explains the observer, who regrets “the opacity of these essentially computer-based flows”.

For more transparency, some are calling for an IT audit of the Ceni. “In this context, the death of the IT expert of the European Union mission is very damaging”concludes one of them.