The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) electoral commission [official website] announced on Saturday that the next presidential election, originally scheduled for November, would be pushed back to 2018. The commission stated that it needs more time to prepare supplies and voter registration lists. The announcement has led to violent protests [DW report] in the country and greater calls for President Joseph Kabila [BBC profile] to leave office. Members of the opposition believe [WSJ report] that the delay is an attempt by Kabila to remain in office, although Kabila denies any involvement in the decision. Kabila’s presidential term is set to expire in December and he is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.
The DRC and surrounding region has seen a high level of conflict in the past decades, and the extension of presidencies has been a contributing issue in many African nations. At the end of January UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to avoid using loopholes and undemocratic constitutional changes to “cling to power” [JURIST report]. Last year protests and demonstrations [JURIST report] took place across the DRC to oppose the proposed changes in the law that would allow Kabila to extend his presidential term past the allotted two-year limit, and the government was accused of using excessive force against these protesters.