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The Congo Could Have 28,000 Candidates In Its Next Election, If It Ever Happens

As many as 28,000 candidates could vie for 139 parliament seats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 2019 election, due to the African country’s permissive electoral laws.

Congolese electoral laws place no limit on the number of candidates who can run for an election, and each ballot must contain each candidate’s name and photo. The result is voluminous ballots that look more like books than voting cards. The sitting Congolese government is faced with the task of printing and distributing 45 million of these documents, and claims the logistical difficulties that entail have forced elections to be delayed until 2019, Foreign Policy reported Thursday.

“In 2006, we [the Congo] got huge support from the United Nations. We used 108 aircraft supported by the U.N. But today there is none,” an unnamed source told Foreign Policy. “The budget is around $600 million. Who is going to fund this?”

The country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) is being widely derided for intentionally delaying elections. Several Western countries, including the United States, have called on the sitting government and Congolese President Joseph Kabila to hold honest elections within a reasonable time frame.

Kabila has proven reluctant to cede power, however, and opposition leaders don’t seem willing to wait for the the president’s go-ahead for an election.

“What the CENI has announced is not an electoral calendar but an election-killing agenda,” opposition leader Claudel Lubaya told Reuters. “Everything now rests on the shoulders of the population, which must take matters into its own hands.”

The call for violence is a recurring theme in Congolese elections. The country has never had a peaceful transition of power.

Many fear that if elections are delayed any further, the country will devolve into the same regional conflicts that took the lives of millions of residents between 1996 and 2003. The CENI continues to point to a lack of funding for the delay.

Foreign donors have only contributed 6 percent of the $123 million the U.S. expected to be provided to the embattled country.

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