Candidates launched their campaigns on Thursday for a Dec. 23 election that could usher in the first democratic transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the vast country since his father’s assassination in 2001, is backing his former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary in the presidential race against a fractured opposition.
Campaigning officially kicked off at Wednesday midnight, after which Kabila, Shadary and coalition members held a meeting at the president’s farm outside the capital, Kinshasa, on Thursday.
The election had been meant to happen before Kabila’s mandate expired in 2016, but has been delayed for so long that many doubted it would ever take place. Questions remain over how it will be conducted.
Opposition groups have harshly criticized a new system with electronic voting machines, which they say are more vulnerable to vote-rigging than paper and ink and could be compromised by the unreliability of Congo’s power supply.
Over forty-six million people are registered to vote, but nearly seven million of these have been disbarred over issues with their credentials, the CENI said on Thursday, without giving further details. The electoral campaign will officially end at midnight on the twenty-first of December.