Despite the press focus on the credibility of Congo’s presidential elections, legislative elections also took place in November on the same day. While presidential elections were widely seen as fraudulent, including by opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, Kabila was sworn in as president. However, perhaps in response to international criticism, the Congolese electoral commission suspended counting of the legislative ballots in December. The electoral commission promised the results would be posted on January 18. Now, however, the commission is saying that the results will be available January 26.
The Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, which fielded twenty thousand election observers, in the meantime, has issued a highly critical statement: “What is happening right now in the tallying of the legislative election results is unacceptable. It brings shame on our country.” The conference went on to urge the electoral commission to reform or resign.
Since January 5, elections experts from the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation for Electoral Systems (PDF), at the request of Congolese political figures, have been working to “assess the feasibility of conducting a review of the results tabulation processes of the November 28 elections.” However, today’s statement suggests they will have their work cut out for them.
Despite the Bishops Conference statement, the Congolese population appears to be largely indifferent, in contrast to the Congolese Diaspora in Europe and the U.S. that has denounced the elections. The indifference probably reflects the desperate poverty of most Congolese and perhaps fear of repression from the Kabila regime. As for the Catholic Church, it does not have a monopoly on Christianity, with the rapid growth of protestant and Pentecostal churches in Congo. Nevertheless, when the legislative election results are announced, there is the possibility of local unrest if the proclaimed winners are not seen as credible.