On the 31st December 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo went to the polls to decide their next president. President Joseph Kabila did not seek re-election. Kabila had been in the role for the previous 18 years after the death of his father. Félix Tshisekedi won the election, resulting in the first peaceful transfer of power in the DR Congo’s 59 year history.
HOW DID THE ELECTION WORK?
Presidential elections in the DR Congo operate on a one-round ‘plurality vote’. This means that many candidates can enter. Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins the presidency, even if they don’t have a majority of the vote. For instance, if candidate A got 10 votes, candidate B got 5 votes and C got 6 votes, candidate A would still win despite the fact that the majority (11 people in total) didn’t vote for them.
WHO WERE THE CANDIDATES?
In total, 21 candidates were approved to run in the presidential contest. The three most significant were Félix Tshisekedi, Martin Fayulu, and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
Both Tshisekedi and Fayulu were opposition candidates, with Shadary being supported by the ruling party (PPRD).
Mr Tshisekedi had been the leader of the UDPS since his father’s death in early 2017. His father had been a longstanding rival to the Kabilas. Mr Tshisekedi had previously been part of the National Assembly (DR Congo’s legislature).
Mr Fayulu is another opposition candidate. Mr Fayulu is a former oil executive and member of the National Assembly. Mr Fayulu had promised to investigate many of President Kabila’s business interests.
Mr Shadary had been Vice Prime Minister, as well as Minister of the Interior and Security under the Kabila administration.
WHY IS IT CONTROVERSIAL?
Mr Tshisekedi was an outsider going into the election. Many expected either Fayulu or Shadary to claim victory. However the official results said that Tshisekedi won 38.6% of the vote, compared to Fayulu’s 34.8% and Shadary’s 23.8%.
Some, including Mr Fayulu, allege that Tshisekedi made a deal with the ruling party to ensure that Mr Fayulu did not win. Data allegedly leaked from the electoral commission, as well as an independent survey by 40,000 Catholic volunteers suggest that in fact Mr Fayulu won 60% of the vote.
Mr Fayulu has appealed to the constitutional court for a recount. On the 19th January the court rejected calls for a recount. As such, Mr Fayulu has declared himself the ‘only legitimate President’ and called for mass protests.