The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) historic presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for November 28 2011. The last presidential and legislative elections took place in 2006, making such elections every five years.

Joseph Kabila Kabange has been president of the DRC since January 2001. He took office ten days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He was elected as President in 2006 and is standing for another term in the 2011 election1. The President is the Head of State, Commander of The Armed Forces and guarantor of the Constitution. The president is elected by a plurality and the term of office is five years and only two terms may be served. Executive power is vested in the President and Prime Minister, the former as Head of State, the latter as Head of Government. The President convenes and chairs the Council of Ministers. While the President is directly elected the Prime Minister must enjoy the support of Parliament. Distinction is made between the Government (Prime Minister and Ministers) and the Council of Ministers (which includes the President).

The National Assembly has 500 seats elected from multimember plurality constituencies. The Senate 104 seats elected by the Provincial Assemblies by proportional representation; eight from Kinshasa and four from each of the other 24 provinces. Past elected Presidents are ex officio members of the Senate.2.

The Electoral Law (Law 06/006 of March 2006, 13) requires that lists of candidates or coalitions should take into account the equal representation of men and women, but also that candidate lists are not rendered invalid by the failure to attain parity.3.

Article 13 of Electoral law is a weak article as it stipulates that candidates should merely ‘take into account’ gender equity and that failure to meet such a recommendation doesn’t warrant correction. WILPF DRC and UK WILPF members Annie Mbambi and Marie-Claire Faray say “[article 13]
lacks coercive or incentive dispositions in the incorporation of women in useful position in the electoral roll. Therefore, inequalities and disparities between women and men in politics remain high”4.

Three of the main political parties, the ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), the opposition Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) all adopted a 30% quota for the representation by women but these quotas were not implemented in the nomination of candidates1. Congolese women are not effectively represented and have never participated in the governance of the country since 1960, year of the independence of the country. No woman has ever been a head of state or head of government (prime minister), neither head of armed groups.

Currently there is no woman member of the office of the Senate and there is only one single woman among the seven members of the office of the National Assembly. Out of the 108 Senators, there are only 6 women of which only one is the chair of a commission(on socio-cultural affairs). There are 43 elected women out 500 elected members of the DRC national assembly. Out of the 45 members of the Government, there are only 5 women of which 4 ministers and 1 vice minister. There is no woman Governor or Vice Governor of the 11 current Provinces of the Republic2.

November 2011 Elections Monitoring

The Second ever legislative and presidential elections in the DRC are incredibly important as they have the potential to end years of impunity; gender based violence and armed rebel groups. The elections also symbolise progression and the adoption of democratic norms.

The election campaign period that began one month before the elections day has seen accusations of the rigging of polls, opposition supporters clashing and calls by candidates to break prisoners out of prison. According to the carter Centre 32 million people were registered to vote, half of which were women. There were no female presidential candidates in 2011, a reduction in  comparison to the 2006 presidential and legislative elections when women made up four of the thirty-three presidential candidates. In the 2011elections women composed 12% out of 18,000 legislative candidates.

73 local and international rights groups signed an open letter to presidential candidates calling for calm and an end to "hate speech" ahead of the November 28 vote3.  

There has been considerable alarm at the electoral ambitions of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka who is running for one of two seats in the Walikale district of the North Kivu province. An arrest warrant has been issued for Sheka, he has been accused of organising the mass rape of 387 people in Walikale district in mid 2010. The arrest warrant is for crimes against humanity and has been issued by Congolese prosecutors.

After initially postponing the announcement of the outcome of the elections, it has been confirmed that final results will be available within 24 hours however seems to be much debate about the success of Joseph Kabila with demonstration taking place around the world including Brussels yesterday.

The increasing use of violence post elections is also a source for concern and questions the credibility of the elections. People have been fleeing to the capital fearing even more violence after the announcement, specifically women and children in search for safety and security. Will candidates accept the results, has the voice of the people including women been heard and lastly will it be fully recognized in the new government?

Ensuring the inclusion of female candidates and ministers in the new government is essential for combating the issue of domestic and gender based violence that has threatened the life, health, and socio-economic future of both men and women in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past years.

Women Political Representation Statistics

2006 Legislative and Presidential Elections 2011 Legislative and Presidential Elections
Female Presidential Candidates 4 of 33 were female 0 out of 11 were female
Female Parliamentary Candidates 1,100 of 9,000 12% /18,000
Females  Securing Lower or single House Seats
52/500 Seats, 10.4%
44/492 or 8.9%
Females Securing Upper House or Senate Seats 5 /108, 4.6% (2007)
N/A (until next elections)
Female Provincial Legislature Reps 43/632, 6.8% N/A

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