Congolese Want President Kabila to Give Up Power, Poll Shows

  • Three-quarters say he should step down when term ends in Dec.
  • Elections have been delayed to April 2018 in political deal

About three-quarters of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo say President Joseph Kabila should step down at the end of his term and that they would vote for an opposition candidate if elections were held this year, according to a new poll.

The survey found that 74 percent of respondents believe Kabila should leave office when his mandate expires on Dec. 19. More than 80 percent rejected changing the constitution to allow the president to run for a third term and only about one-in-five said they would vote for a member of Kabila’s ruling coalition if elections were held this year, according to the poll by the Kinshasa-based Bureau d’Etudes, de Recherche et de Consulting International and New York University’s Congo Research Group.

Elections, which were due to be held in Africa’s biggest copper producer next month, were postponed until April 2018 under a political agreement reached last week with a small number of opposition parties. The national electoral body says it needs the extra time to complete voter registration.

Most of Congo’s opposition figures boycotted the talks and continue to call on Kabila, who will now retain office until the vote is held, to leave in December as required by the constitution. Opposition leaders including Moise Katumbi and Etienne Tshisekedi accuse the president of purposely blocking vote preparations to hold on to power.

In September, more than 50 people died when opposition supporters clashed with security forces in protests against delays to the election process. Both the U.S. and United Nations have warned of the risks of further violence.

Sharp Tilt

“Public opinion has tilted sharply against the ruling coalition,” the polling groups said. Their study, conducted between May and September, interviewed 7,545 people across all of Congo’s 26 provinces.

Katumbi, the former governor of copper-rich Katanga who left the ruling party last year, was the most popular leader in 16 provinces, with 33 percent of those surveyed nationally saying they would vote for him, followed by Tshisekedi with 18 percent support.

“Kabila is in a very difficult position,” Congo Research Group Director Jason Stearns said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Not only is he not popular enough to win elections, and the population does not want the constitution to change to allow him to run again, but there was no one within his inner circle who comes even close to being popular enough to win a presidential election.”