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Kabila candidate faces divided challenge in Congo presidential poll

by kenya-tribune

Outgoing Democratic Republic
of Congo president Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor will face
a credible election challenge in December from two opposition
leaders, the final list of candidates published on Wednesday

Kabila has ruled since his father’s assassination in 2001.
He agreed last month not to defy term limits by standing for
re-election, opening the door to the Central African nation’s
first democratic transfer of power.

His announcement calmed tensions that have seen dozens of
anti-Kabila demonstrators killed by security forces since he
refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in
December 2016.

Kabila is backing Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary in the
long-delayed, December 23 poll.

His biggest challengers are likely to be Felix Tshisekedi,
the president of Congo’s largest opposition party, and Vital
Kamerhe, who placed third in the last election in 2011.

But in all 21 candidates have been approved for the
single-round contest, including several other prominent Kabila
critics, which risks diluting the opposition vote and boosting
Ramazani’s chances.

Also read: Kabila’s decision to step aside won’t change DRC’s power dynamics

The authorities’ exclusion from the race of other leading
opposition figures, including former vice president Jean-Pierre
Bemba and ex-provincial governor Moise Katumbi, has also raised
questions about the election’s fairness.

The opposition accuses Kabila’s camp of plotting to rig the
elections with untested electronic voting machines, a charge the
ruling coalition rejects.

In a rare opinion poll in July, Katumbi finished joint first
with Tshisekedi on 19 per cent of the vote. Bemba received 17
per cent and Kamerhe got 9 per cent.

Ramazani did not receive enough votes to figure in the
results but is expected to now benefit from the ruling
coalition’s financial and institutional muscle.

Opposition leaders have repeatedly said they intend to
coalesce behind a single candidate but have traditionally
struggled to present a united front. In 2011, Kabila won with 49
percent of ballots cast as the opposition vote split.

The final candidate list also includes former prime minister
Samy Badibanga and long-time Kabila ally Tryphon Kin-Kiey.

Bemba was disqualified by the constitutional court earlier
this month over a witness tampering conviction while Katumbi was
prevented from re-entering the country last month to register
his candidacy after two years in exile.

The electoral commission also validated more than 15,000
candidacies for parliamentary elections due to take place the
same day.

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