Courts to investigate DRC senate election results
President Felix Tshisekedi could be on the verge of a coup de grâce against the remnants of the Kabila regime. He has announced a suspension of the installation of newly elected senators as well as a postponement of planned gubernatorial elections, both scheduled for late March.
The senatorial vote took place on 15th March in 24 of the country’s 26 provinces and saw the newly created FCC (loyal to former president Kabila) coalition emerge with at least 80 seats of the 109-seat senate. There had been widespread allegations of corruption even before the vote with some of the seats rumoured to be being sold for anywhere from USD20,000-50,000.
What will now happen is an investigation by the Attorney General and the Court of Cassation into the elections and the claims of corruption. The investigation has two likely outcomes:
The investigation finds sufficient evidence to call for an annulment of the results and a re-run of the election. This would in turn draw legal challenges from the FCC. The Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI, has already called for the matter to be taken to the constitutional court. But, in order for any re-elections to have any level of credibility, some reforms would need to be put in place to prevent the same from happening again.
The judiciary remains loyal to Kabila and finds no credibility to the allegations (or not enough evidence to overturn a substantial number of seats) and declares the election valid. This would lead to further demonstrations by members of Tshisekedi’s UDPS party but would ultimately lead to Kabila controlling the senate.
Kabila has not yet reacted to the investigations, but he is likely to see it as an affront. The senate was seen as his main channel for maintaining a hold on power in the country – as a former president, he has been given a senate seat for life. A March 6th agreement had already given Kabila the power to choose the country’s prime minster, however, the senate is where he personally could take power. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that he will use it as a platform to launch constitutional change.
If the UDPS or those in the Tshisekedi camp are able to overturn the result of the senate elections the lower and upper houses of parliament will be split (355 of 550 seats in the National Assembly’s lower house are filled by Kabila loyalists). Such a split will stifle reforms. For example, constitutional changes “require approval by a 3/5 majority in a joint sitting of the two legislative houses, or an absolute majority in each house and approval in a referendum called by the president.” The country is in need of significant institutional, electoral and structural reforms as the current (2006) constitution has long been unfit for purpose and served the interests of Kabila.
However, there are some vitally needed reforms that can be pushed through without constitutional alterations such as land reforms, civil service structure, fiscal policies and some judicial reforms. These alone will go a long way to bringing stability and efficiency to government activities in the country.