By Francois Conradie, Head of Research at NKC African Economics
The Constitutional Court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has, over the past two days, delivered some verdicts that aim to boost the chances of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the candidate of President Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), to win the presidential election in December.
These schemes are negatively affecting political risk by further delegitimising an already widely discredited electoral process, with the result that Congolese who are tired of Mr Kabila’s rule will be more likely to take to the streets in protest.
The biggest shock to opposition supporters was the Court’s confirmation of the barring of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president and military commander, running on the platform of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).
On Tuesday, September 4, the Constitutional Court ruled that Mr Bemba was ineligible to run in the election because of his 2016 conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for bribing witnesses.
According to the Constitutional Court, this interference with the judicial process is a form of corruption, and a conviction for corruption, according to the DRC’s electoral law, is reason for a potential candidate to be barred from running. It accordingly upheld the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni), handed down in late August, to bar Mr Bemba.
The latter said in response that the “Constitutional Court obeys the orders of the power in place…so that the candidate of the power does not have a serious candidate facing him.”
The court also upheld the Ceni’s decision to bar five other candidates. The definitive list of candidates will be published on September 19.
Mr Bemba had advised patience pending the Constitutional Court’s verdict, but it is now certain that he has been barred from running against Mr Shadary, the ‘candidate of the power’, in December.
Eve Bazaiba, the MLC’s secretary general, has said that “no one can [now] fault the MLC an active inclination towards large-scale citizen action”, and we expect to see some of that, at least, in the coming months.
With Moise Katumbi out of the running too (he was prevented from returning to the DRC to register as a candidate), Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) is the only serious candidate on the opposition side and we expect him to gain some default support as a result, but we still consider Mr Shadary easily the favourite to win.