Congo’s election could plunge the country into open conflict similar to that in Ivory Coast unless authorities shore up their preparations, said the International Crisis Group.
The vast and mineral-rich central African country is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28, the second since the end of a conflict in 2003 that killed more than 5 million people.
But financial and logistical problems threaten to lead to a ‘botched’ poll that could “all too easily become as violent as the Ivory Coast”, ICG said in a statement.
Thousands of people were killed and more than 1 million displaced after Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo attempted to cling to power after losing an election in November 2010 to his rival Alassane Ouattara, Reuters reports.
Gbagbo was captured by Ouattara’s troops last month after fierce fighting in the main city of Abidjan, and Ouattara’s government is now struggling to restore security and rebuild the country’s shattered economy.
Congo released its electoral calendar last week, vowing to hold the vote just eight days before President Joseph Kabila’s mandate expires on December 6.
ICG said Congo may struggle to prepare the elections on time and that it should make contingency plans for a transitional government if there are delays, in order to avoid destabilising the country. The government is already struggling to stamp out rebel groups in the eastern provinces.
“The electoral dilemma the authorities face could spread to the streets, and if the present electoral calendar is not respected, the unconstitutional postponement of the vote will become a crisis of legitimacy,” said Thierry Vircoulon, ICG’s Central Africa Project Director.
Congolese authorities remain confident that elections will be held this year and they have received praise from the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, Roger Meece, for their preparations so far.
But critics say the government has failed to prepare adequately and the opposition has accused the authorities of intimidating its supporters.
Congo’s first post-war elections in 2006 – which received massive backing from the international community – were largely praised, although clashes between rival political factions in the capital killed more than 300 people.
With the opposition divided, Kabila remains favourite to be re-elected, despite growing unpopularity over his perceived failure to tackle insecurity and corruption.