Good Reads: Flawed elections in Congo, and voters protest Putin in Russia
Polling results will be announced today in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but 'massive' irregularities may undermine credibility; and Russian voters rebuke leader Vladimir Putin.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s election commission will announce polling results today, an exercise that could very well kick off a spate of violence in this massive, fragile country.Skip to next paragraph
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Election observers have noted voting irregularities and “fraudulent manipulation” on a “massive scale” in the elections held Nov. 28. The ballot stuffing has been blatant, observers say, with ballot papers trucked in at the last minute and polling boxes carted off without independent verification or proper efforts to seal the boxes to prevent tampering. Initial tallies show that incumbent President Joseph Kabila has 46 percent compared with his main challenger Etienne Tshisekedi’s 36 percent, but given the composition of the electoral commission – the head of the mission is the personal pastor of President Kabila – such figures are treated with a certain amount of skepticism.
What happens next is a matter that rests in the hands of President Kabila, opposition leader Mr. Tshisekedi, and to a certain lesser extent, the international community. If Kabila and Tshisekedi continue to talk with each other through intermediaries, there is a chance to forestall any violence. If Kabila attempts to rush the process, have himself declared victor, and then calls out the Army to control opposition protests, then Congo risks a return to open conflict. If the international community – specifically, the United Nations, which maintains a 19,000 man peacekeeping force in Congo – endorses election results without listening to the concerns of the opposition, then their future credibility will be shot.
Adam Nossiter of The New York Times tells this human impact of this election by talking with the long lines of people – perhaps as many as 3,000 thus far – queuing up with their families to cross the Congo river from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the relative safety of Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo.
Mr. Nossiter also talks with election observers, who warn that the election irregularities could be on such a scale that they undermine credibility in any result announced today.
“The chain of custody is being broken, materials are just thrown into the back of trucks, there’s evidence of extremely large numbers of envelopes with vote-tally sheets that have been opened,” said David Pottie of the Carter Center, the Atlanta-based organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter to promote human rights. “There are inconsistencies in the application of procedures — in some cases these are extremely serious, on a massive scale,” Mr. Pottie said.
But are these irregularities intentional? Kabila’s own vice president plays the “we’re a developing country” card and argues that any irregularities are just rookie mistakes in a country with bad infrastructure and poor education levels.