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Dec 22, 2023, 1:37pm EST
Africa
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Semafor Signals

DRC voters await results in contentious election

Insights from The Guardian, International Organization for Migration, SABC News


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Democratic Republic of the Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi casts his vote, at a polling station during the presidential election, in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo December 20, 2023.
REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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The News

Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo were awaiting the results of the country’s election Friday, after a ballot marred by delays and widespread administrative chaos that prompted opposition candidates to call for a rerun.

Observers reported malfunctioning voting machines and closed polling stations among the issues plaguing the ballot, calling the credibility of election results into question.

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The vote is taking place against the backdrop of mass displacement due to ongoing violent conflicts with Rwanda-backed rebels in the DRC’s eastern provinces.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

A disputed vote in 2018 raises fears for a second peaceful transition of power

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Sources:  
Washington Post, International Crisis Group

International groups have raised concerns about the risk of violence in the election, which sees President Felix Tshisekedi running for a second term against 18 other candidates, including oil executive and former runner-up Martin Fayulu.

Tshisedeki’s inauguration in 2019 marked the country’s first peaceful transition of power, but the 2018 election in the DRC was marred by violence and sparked a political crisis. After voting was postponed in several areas — ostensibly owing to an Ebola outbreak — opposition parties accused authorities of seeking to rig the vote, and protesters attacked polling centers. Leaked data later showed widespread irregularities and evidence of manipulation, according to The Washington Post. Runner-up Fayulu denounced a “stolen victory” and said he won by a landslide.

Internal displacement one of several hurdles to election credibility

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Sources:  
International Organization for Migration, The Guardian, Reuters

Nearly 7 million people are internally displaced in the DRC due to conflict, according to the U.N., leaving many unable to participate in the ballot. One polling station in Ituri province was attacked by displaced people who found out only the day before that they were barred from voting, The Guardian reported. Other voters showed up to polling stations this week to find their names were not on voter registration lists, while many voting machines were not delivered or malfunctioned, and there were reports of observers being blocked and people being told how to vote, “irregularities…which confirm our fears of obviously planned electoral fraud”, Reuters quoted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege as saying.


An election win for Tshisekedi could raise tensions with Rwanda

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Sources:  
Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch

The election is taking place amid a backdrop of heightened violence by Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in the east of the country, with Human Rights Watch reporting an escalation in unlawful killings, rape, and other war crimes since late 2022. Tshisekedi has vowed to seek authorization for a declaration of war against Kigali if he is reelected, Al Jazeera reported. Albert Malukisa, dean of political science at the Catholic University of Congo, said a win by Tshisekedi could lead to an increase in tensions with Rwanda, particularly in the absence of Western pressure for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

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