Felix Tshisekedi’s hope for effecting change in the DRC suffered another blow as his party suffered a massive defeat in the just ended Senate elections at the hands of the Kabila-aligned Common Front for Congo (FCC) Coalition.
The FCC won 84 out of the available 100 senate seats strengthening its grip on power. The coalition already has control over 66% of the National Assembly, a majority which grants it the powers to unilaterally change the Constitution of the country and pursue legal proceedings to unseat Tshisekedi if they so wish to.
Felix Tshisekedi has already had headaches trying to appoint his choice for Prime Minister as the law grants that right to the majority party in the National Assembly. Riot scenes broke out outside the headquarters of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) as activists of the oldest and largest political party expressed their anger over the party’s dismal electoral performance and what they see as a sham election.
Activists have expressed anger over the fact that the Kabila-loyal FCC will now have control over the entire state apparatus, from the provincial assemblies to the Senate. The results of the elections mean Kabila will retain massive influence in the mineral-rich country. He will also retain a Senate seat himself as the constitution makes him a senator for life after his retirement as president.
Friday’s Senate elections have been marred by widespread accusations of corruption. About 20 candidates from across the political spectrum withdrew from their races over what they said were demands for bribes of tens of thousands of dollars.
The allegations have crossed both sides of the political divide. In Kasaï-Central province in the centre of the country, several homes of UDPS deputies were also burned and looted by violent activists. Activists are irked by the fact that no UDPS senator was elected despite the presence of senior members in the provincial parliament.
Congo’s attorney general asked the electoral commission to postpone the vote over the allegations but it declined to do so.
Earlier this year he summoned members of the coalition to his farm to pledge allegiance to him. Tshisekedi himself has also been to Kabila’s farm as he tries to work out an agreement for a coalition government. Supporters of his opponent, Martin Fayulu, have accused Tshisekedi of striking a deal with Kabila to rig the presidential election when it became clear Kabila’s preferred candidate could not win.
Although Tshisekedi took office in January in Congo’s first-ever transfer of power via the ballot box, Kabila’s cabinet ministers are still in place as negotiations over the nomination of a prime minister proceed.
Tshisekedi has made some breaks with Kabila-era policies, most recently by announcing on Tuesday that he would free three prominent political prisoners and 700 others jailed under his predecessor’s administration.
Image Credits: National Post