Guest blogger Jason K. Stearns looks at possible scenarios for Congo, including mediation or holding a fresh runoff between President Kabila and opposition leader Tshisekedi.
Joseph Kabila was proclaimed winner of the presidential elections on Friday, obtaining 49% of the votes. Etienne Tshisekedi was a distant second, with 32%.
As expected, many Congolese have rejected the results, setting tyres on fire in Kinshasa and launching isolated protests around the country. Tshisekedi has now announced a large opposition demonstration in Kinshasa and other cities for Tuesday, while the opposition UNC party will hold a protest today in Bukavu, focusing on both the election results and the killing of two students over the weekend.
It is not only some Congolese who find the results hard to believe – foreign observers have also expressed skepticism. The Atlanta-based Carter Center published a brief report on Saturday, saying the results "lack credibility." The European Union will be publishing a report today or tomorrow, reportedly with very similar conclusions.
What are the main problems with the vote?
Perhaps the most obvious flaw is the loss of ballots of between 3,000 and 4,000 polling stations around the country, including 2,000 from Kinshasa and all the results from the territory of Kiri in Bandundu. In the case of the lost Kinshasa votes, some foreign observers believe that these are the same polling stations that Ngoy Mulunda had wanted to invalidate earlier in the week, but was forced to set aside after protests from observers.
Then there are the suspicious turnout figures. In several districts, turnout was almost 100%, rates the Carter Center finds "impossibly high." This was the case in several territories of northern Katanga, Joseph Kabila's home turf (or, to be more precise, that of his father). The problem was not just the high turnout, but the fact that it coincided with almost 100% support for Kabila. In the territory of Malemba Nkulu, for example, turnout was 99,46%, with not a single one of the 266,866 votes going to anyone but the incumbent. In Kabongo territory, Kabila also received a perfect score (turnout was 91%), while in Manono, where Kabila received 99,98% of the vote, turnout was 100,14%.
While Tshisekedi received very high scores in the Kasais, as well, turnout there was much lower, around 50-60%. The national turnout was 58 percent.
Some observers have told me that one way of detecting suspicious turnout figures is to calculate how many voters cast their ballots in a polling station on election day, then multiplying by the number of minutes it takes them on average to cast a vote, taking into account that several people can vote at the same time. If the total is over 20 hours, it is likely that there was something wrong with polling in that station.
Another figure that raised eyebrows were registration numbers. In some rural parts of northern Katanga, the growth in registered voters since 2006 is more than double the national growth rates. In Manono, for example, the number of voters grew by 52% in five years, while in four other Katangan territories growth was over 38% in the same period. The national increase in voters between the two elections was 26%.