They’re the first free elections in Congo for more than four decades – and some 400 million euros have been invested to make sure they go off smoothly. The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo go to the polls today – and the stability of the country depends on a result that’s seen to be fair.
“Everything has to be ready”, said one organiser, “Voting begins at 6.30am and closes as at 5.30.” Some 17 000 United Nations peacekeepers and 1000 soldiers from Europe are on hand to ensure all runs smoothly – and although there’s been some disruption – ballot papers for 67 polling stations were burnt by youths in one incident – the operation’s proved remarkably successful so far for a country that was wracked by a multi-sided civil war up until only three years ago.
President Joseph Kabila is favourite to win the election – he’s overseen the introduction of democracy following his father Laurent’s assassination, and says this alone represents a mission accomplished. But former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has had good turnouts for his rallies and looks to be Kabila’s most likely contender. Results are not expected for several weeks and if no candidate gets and overall majority a second round of voting will be held in October.