Closer look at Congo preliminary vote tally raises questions

Guest blogger Jason K. Stearns finds some surprises in the preliminary vote tally from Congo's Nov. 28 presidential elections; final results are expected Friday.

Jerome Delay/AP
Supporters of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi flash victory signs near their candidate's headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Thursday. Congo is tense as its people await the outcome of last week's disputed election, with partial results making victory all but certain for incumbent Joseph Kabila.

Yesterday we got the fifth installment of election results. The election commissioner says we are now at 89,29% of total votes. While they did not want to declare a winner until Friday (they have postponed the results), it is virtually impossible for Tshisekedi still to win. That is, if these results are correct.
 By my back-of-the-envelope calculus, Kabila now has 8,353,573 votes and Tshisekedi 5,927,528, with only around two million votes left to count.
 So what does a preliminary analysis of the votes that have been counted say?
 Here are the current figures by province, with turnout and Joseph Kabila's percentages for both rounds of 2006 elections.

Province Kabila Kabila 2006 1st round Kabila 2006 2nd Tshisekedi Turnout Bandundu 63% 3% 40% 20% 57% Bas-Congo 20% 14% 25% 74% 56% Equateur 10% 2% 2,8% 36% 51% Kasai-Occ 15% 11% 23% 79% 50% Kasai-Or 20% 36% 32% 71% 50% Katanga 90% 77% 93% 7% 68% Kinshasa 30% 14% 32% 64% 68% P Orientale 62% 70% 79% 14% 62% Maniema 87% 90% 98% 3% 57% North Kivu 37% 77% 96% 22% 62% South Kivu 45% 95% 98% 9% 69%

  There are a few comments to make, all with the proviso that these are preliminary results.
 Kabila scores surprisingly high in Bandundu – he did receive the endorsement of Antoine Gizenga, who helped him get a good result in the province in 2006. But even then, he only got 40% of the votes there – he has increased his score to 63% of votes now. While there are tensions between the Luba (Tshisekedi's community) and other groups in the province, this result is still striking.
 Kabila also scores surprisingly well in areas with large Luba communities – the Kasais, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. In the Kasais, it is striking that the turnout remained low, barely higher than 2006, when many boycotted the vote. Considering how immensely popular Tshisekedi is in part of these provinces, this is strange (but is surely linked to the violence on election day). It is also strange that Tshisekedi would get almost the same results as Bemba in Katanga – there is a very large Luba community there, and tensions between southerners and northerners (Kabila's community). As for Kinshasa, few people in this opposition stronghold thought Kabila would be able to hold onto 30% of the vote there.
 People in South Kivu have also been scratching their heads about Kabila's score there – he has fallen out of favor with many in the province, and Kamerhe was considered to be a favorite by many. However, there is probably an urban bias against Kabila, and most of the people I have spoken to are in urban areas. Equateur is also a bit puzzling, as it is difficult to see how the president gained in popularity in this opposition bastion, even if he is still at a low 10%.
 If the figures are accurate (despite all of the many allegations of fraud and rigging), then Kabila will have won the elections by gaining support in the West of the country, even as he suffered a steep decline in support in the East. It will also show that his tactic of dividing the opposition worked – a coalition of Tshisekedi, Kamerhe and Kengo would have beaten Kabila, if they had been able to carry over their votes to a common opposition candidate.
 Again, this is all still speculation, since there final results have not been announced, and these figures are still steeped in controversy as thick as Masisi mud.

– Jason Stearns blogs about the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region at Congo Siasa.

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