The first multiparty elections in 46 years were held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday, July 31. At more than fifty thousand voting locations, approximately twenty-five million voters cast ballots after waiting in long but relatively peaceful lines. Overall, the elections took place with few incidents of violence, thanks in large part to the international community’s investment in the elections, through both substantial financial contributions as well as the presence of 17,000 UN peacekeeping forces.
Many expected the incumbent Joseph Kabila to win the election, though recent reports have suggested that Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former warlord who has committed serious human rights violations, may have the lead. Kabila and Bemba are two of more than thirty presidential candidates running for office. If no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the votes, a run-off election will be held in October between the two leading contenders. It appears likely that a second election will take place, pitting Kabila and Bemba exclusively against each other, and possibly furthering an emerging geo-political schism that shows Kabila with a dramatic lead in the east while Bemba has the advantage in the west.
Official results from the election are not expected to be announced until the end of August when all of the ballots have been counted. The national and international communities are anxiously awaiting the results with hope for an honest political system and fear for the geographical disenfranchisement that could occur if political beliefs continue to be split across the country.