A report has surfaced in Kinshasa suggesting that hundreds of thousands of voters in the official register may be fake. While many of these records may just be technical glitches, diplomats who have seen the document and follow the electoral process closely suggest this may be a sign of fraud.
For several weeks now, accusations have been flung back and forth between the election commission and the opposition about the voter register, a database of around 32 million voters that identifies those eligible to vote in the November elections. The stakes are potentially huge, as if the register is rigged, it will be difficult for observers at the polling stations to identify fraud.
The report is a confidential document written in early August by Zetes, a Belgian company contracted by the Congolese government to issue biometric voters cards. They conducted preliminary samples of the voter register to see how many doublons – voters who show up twice in the system – there may be in the database. According to two separate diplomats who had seen the document, Zetes found the following number of doublons:
- Bandundu: 278,039, or 13.68 percent of all voters
- Equateur: 201,543, or 12.69 percent
- Orientale: 198,881, or 5.47 percent
- Kinshasa: 22,466, or 0.87 percent
These levels are far higher that those announced by the election commission Daniel Mulunda Ngoy, who said that 119,000 double registrations had been identified.
The Zetes report, which was issued in early August, says that there are different types of doublons. The most damning type, which they suggested based on their sampling was not negligible, are the doublons binaires and vrai doublons, which would constitute fraud. Zetes concluded itself that the presence of these voters in the register is evidence of manipulation. It is, however, not clear how many of these fake voter IDs were issued.
It is also important to note that removing these doublons would not eliminate other types of fraud, such as the registration of children or foreigners.
Even if all of these fake voters are technical glitches, at the very least it appears that the voter registration process has resulted in the gerrymandering of electoral districts, as Kinshasa has far fewer doublons than other provinces. This is confirmed by the fact that only 92 percent of expected voters were registered in Kinshasa, as compared with 110 percent in Equateur and 109 percent in Katanga. Because the voter register was not audited before the amendment to the electoral law – that determines how many parliamentary seats there are per district – was passed, this would imply that the population of Kinshasa will be underrepresented in the national assembly.
According to the same Zetes document, it would take them until October to audit out all of the doublons. That would have caused for a serious delay in the electoral process, as the electoral amendment had to be passed in early August in order for elections to take place on Nov. 28.
Regardless of how skewed the parliamentary distribution of seats is, it remains crucial to audit the voter register. This past week, there was conflicting messages coming out of the electoral commission with regards to an audit. First, the election commissioner announced that five members of the political opposition would be allowed to access their database. (According to some observers, none of those put forward by the opposition, however, have the necessary technical expertise to carry out such an audit). Then, just a day later, he said that both sides of the political spectrum – the governing coalition and the opposition – would have to agree on an audit. Kabila's majority prompted said that they didn't think an audit was necessary, thereby preventing the opposition from gaining access to the database.
When contacted by diplomats and journalists, Zetes and UN electoral officials dismissed the report, saying that the glitches were technical and not a major problem.
– Jason Stearns blogs about the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region at Congo Siasa.