Congo Opposition Sees Electoral-Body Departures Delaying Poll

  • Government says latest resignation for personal reasons
  • Opposition urges commission to publish election calendar

Opposition politicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo warned recent upheaval at the national electoral commission may delay elections and undermine stability in Africa’s biggest copper producer, after the vice president of the body resigned at the weekend.

The resignation of Andre Pungwe from the Independent National Electoral Commission came after its president, Abbe Apollinaire Malu Malu, quit in October because of ill-health.

“If we are not careful, the crisis situation at the CENI, which the ruling Presidential Majority is in the process of creating, will soon undermine the organization of elections and the stability of Congo,” the opposition group, known as the G7, said in an e-mailed statement.

The G7 said Pungwe’s resignation was a result of political pressure placed on the independent body by the government, which it says intends to delay a series of elections over the next 12 months that will culminate in a presidential vote in 2016. Pungwe’s decision to leave was personal and unrelated to his work at the CENI, government spokesman Lambert Mende said Monday by phone from Kinshasa, the capital.

Revised Calendar

The G7 called on the electoral commission to publish the revised election calendar, which it claims has been completed and withheld from the public. Under the original program, provincial assemblies were due to be elected on Oct. 25, though the votes didn’t take place. Governors for 21 new provinces were also due to be elected in October through indirect polls, which were delayed. Instead the government last week appointed special commissioners to manage the provinces until elections can be held.

Mende said the government couldn’t comment on whether or not elections would be delayed, after Reuters reported on Oct. 31 that a member of the ruling coalition called for the vote to be delayed for as long as four years.

“Neither the government nor the presidential majority can comment on the election timetable, it is not our role,” Mende said. “This is the responsibility of the CENI.”

The executive secretary of the election commission, Corneille Nangaa, has been nominated to succeed Malu Malu as president of the electoral body, though he must still be approved by the parliament and the president. Until then, the electoral commission will be without its two most senior officials.

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