U.N. envoy calls for ‘a level playing field’ in key upcoming DR Congo elections

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [Courtesy: U.N.]
The United Nations has called for a level playing field in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country closes in on a delayed presidential election.

The U.N. Special Representative for the country and head of the Stabilization Mission, MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui, noted that major progress had been made on preparations for the December vote, but “conditions for a level playing field are not yet in place.”

“While significant progress has been made to respect the stages of the calendar process, the electoral process continues to suffer from suspicion and mistrust between the majority and the opposition, and, between the opposition and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI),” she told the Security Council on Thursday.

The envoy noted that preparations have reached an important turning point with the opening, on Wednesday, of candidate reception offices for presidential and legislative elections, due to take place on December 23.

Zerrougui however told the Council that the opposition had expressed multiple grievances, including over voter machinery and electoral records.

After a slow start, more than 18,000 candidates for office registered to run for the 715 seats being contested.

The DR Congo elections were scheduled for November 2016, but the electoral body said it was unable to conduct the vote due to logistical challenges.

Opposition leaders however accused President Joseph Kabila of frustrating the electoral process to cling on to power, allegations he denied.

Kabila is barred by the constitution from seeking re-election after serving the stipulated two terms.

Should he refrain from running and the election goes on smoothly, this will be the first time the DR Congo experiences a smooth transition of power.