Editor’s Note: January 09, 2019

Congo’s election chaos is worrying but not surprising

Democratic Republic of Congo’s high profile, chaotic presidential election is nearing its crescendo.

On Tuesday the campaign of leading opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi claimed it was meeting with outgoing president Joseph Kabila’s ruling party for transition talks, saying Tshisekedi was the ‘presumptive winner’ of the vote.

This was promptly denied by the ruling party, but the claim is fueling speculation that Kabila’s chosen successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary may lose the poll.

The conflicting reports encapsulate the uncertainty that has characterized the landmark vote, which has been marred by repeated delays and violence.

Delayed preliminary results, originally due by January 6, are expected later this week. The decision to push back the announcement, which the electoral commission blames on logistical shortcomings, has raised fears of vote rigging.

There is good cause for concern, with local observers oin Tuesday saying that it has witnessed 52‘major irregularities’ at 101 out of 179 vote-counting centers being monitored.

Tensions are already running high, and a disputed outcome could lead to volatility in Congo and the region

The prospect is worrying, but the election chaos should come as no surprise in a country without a history of competitive electoral politics, which has effectively been under autocratic rule since Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in a military coup in 1965.

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