DR Congo general election, 2018

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  Félix Tshisekedi (september 2018).jpg Martin Fayulu Par Ezra Sierra © 2018 cropped.jpg
Nominee Félix Tshisekedi Martin Fayulu Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary
Party UDPS DO Independent
Alliance Heading for Change (CACH) Lamuka Common Front for Congo (FCC)
Popular vote 7,051,013 6,366,732 4,357,359
Percentage 38.6% 34.8% 23.8%

President before election

Joseph Kabila

Elected President

Félix Tshisekedi

General elections were held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 30 December 2018, to determine a successor to President Joseph Kabila,[1] as well as for the 500 seats of the National Assembly and the 715 elected seats of the 26 provincial assemblies.[2] Félix Tshisekedi (UDPS) won with 38.6% of the vote, defeating another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, backed by the ruling party PPRD. Fayulu alleged that the vote was rigged against him in a deal made by Tshisekedi and outgoing President Kabila, challenging the result in the DRC's Constitutional Court. Different election observers, including those from the country's Roman Catholic Church, also cast doubt on the official result. Nonetheless on 20 January the Court rejected his appeal and declared Tshisekedi as the winner.[3] Parties supporting President Kabila won the majority of seats in the National Assembly.[4] Félix Tshisekedi was sworn in as the 5th President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 24 January 2019, making it the first peaceful transition of power in the country since it became independent from Belgium in 1960.[5]

According to the constitution, the second and final term of President Kabila expired on 20 December 2016.[6] General elections were originally scheduled for 27 November 2016, but were delayed with a promise to hold them by the end of 2017.[7] This promise was subsequently broken, but after both international and internal pressure the elections were finally scheduled for 23 December 2018. They were, however, postponed for a week on 30 December 2018 due to a fire in the electoral commission's warehouse in Kinshasa destroying 8,000 electronic voting machines.[8]

Incumbent President Kabila was constitutionally ineligible for a third term.[9] He and his party, the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, supported the candidacy of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the former Minister of the Interior,[10] who formally ran as an independent candidate. In opposition to Shadary's candidacy, seven opposition leaders, including Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi, nominated Martin Fayulu as their candidate for president.[11] However, Félix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe soon after broke this agreement and agreed that Tshisekedi should run for president while Kamerhe would serve as his campaign manager and become Prime Minister if he won. They also agreed that Tshisekedi and his party will back a candidate from Kamerhe's Union for the Congolese Nation in the 2023 presidential elections.[12]

Preliminary results were scheduled to be announced on 6 January 2019, with the final result on 15 January and the inauguration of the next president on 18 January.[13] However, it was later announced on 5 January that the publication of preliminary results would be delayed, as less than half of the votes have been obtained by the election commission.[14] On 10 January the election commission declared Félix Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress opposition party, as the winner of the election.[15] Martin Fayulu, who came in second, has claimed that the election was rigged and that he will challenge the result in the DRC's Constitutional Court.[16][17] The country's influential Roman Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election monitors, has also said the official result does not align with its observations, which place Fayulu as the winner.[18] On 12 January it became known that parties supporting Joseph Kabila won the majority of seats in the National Assembly.[4] The Constitutional Court announced on January 14 that it would review Fayulu's appeal of the result,[19] and would make a ruling on January 19.[20] On January 19, the Constitutional Court rejected Fayulu's challenge of the election results, upholding Tshisekedi's victory. Fayulu claims to be the "legitimate" president and has called for protests.[21][22]

While Tshisekedi had won the election, parties aligned with Kabila secured a majority in the National Assembly and later in the Senate during the March 2019 Senate election. Because of this Tshisekedi's ability to implement policies or appoint a candidate for Prime Minister were limited. Because of this he has been working with the former cabinet of Kabila.[23][24] In the months after the general election, President Tshisekedi negotiated with the Kabila-aligned Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition parties. It was not until 20 May 2019 that he appointed Kabila ally and career bureaucrat Sylvestre Ilunga as his designate for Prime Minister.[25][26][27]


On 29 September 2016, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced that the elections would not be held until early 2018. According to CENI's vice president, the commission "hasn't called elections in 2016 because the number of voters isn't known."[28] The announcement came ten days after deadly protests against Kabila in Kinshasa saw 17 people killed. The opposition alleged that Kabila intentionally delayed the elections to remain in power.[6]

An agreement reached with the opposition in December 2016 allowed Kabila to stay in office with a requirement to hold elections by the end of 2017. However, on 7 July 2017, CENI President Corneille Nangaa said it would not be possible to organize presidential elections by the end of the year.[29] Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi condemned the announcement on Twitter, saying Nangaa had "declared war on the Congolese people."[30]

In November 2017 CENI announced that elections will be held in December 2018,[31] after previously claiming earlier that month that elections could not be held until April 2019 due to the difficulties of registering voters in a country with underdeveloped infrastructure.[32] Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala confirmed in March 2018 that the election will occur in December 2018.[33]

According to the UN a total of 47 people had been killed at protests against President Kabila during this period, which occurred throughout 2017 and into 2018.[34][35]

According to Human Rights Watch, government security forces used live rounds to disperse crowds of opposition supporters throughout August 2018, stating that the total death toll by then since 2015 was 300 people. HRW also documented attempts by the Congolese government to persecute members of the opposition, such as banning Moïse Katumbi from entering the country and forcefully dispersing a rally in support of Jean-Pierre Bemba.[36]

In late December, the government further delayed voting in three cities until March 2019. Those include Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province, due to the 2018 Ebola outbreak as well as the ongoing military conflict, and Yumbi in the western Mai-Ndombe province, where about 900 people were killed throughout December by inter-ethnic violence. In all other regions it will still take place as scheduled on 30 December. This was criticized as these regions are known as opposition strongholds.[37][38][39]

Electoral system

President Joseph Kabila casting his vote on 30 December 2018

According to Article 71 of the DRC Constitution, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is elected by plurality vote in one round. Article 72 specifies that the requirements to stand as a candidate for the presidency are being a Congolese citizen and at least thirty years old.[40][41]

Article 101 of the Constitution provides the basis for electing a National Assembly.[40] The 500 members of the National Assembly are elected by two methods; 60 are elected from single-member constituencies using first-past-the-post voting, and 440 are elected from 109 multi-member constituencies by open list proportional representation, with seats allocated using the largest remainder method to all lists gathering more than 1% of the valid votes.[42]

For the first time, electronic voting machines were used in a Congolese election. This has raised concerns about vote-rigging, particularly after a warehouse fire in Kinshasa destroyed 8,000 voting machines, which represent more than two-thirds of the voting machines that had been planned to be used in the city.[43][44]


In total, 21 candidates were approved for the presidential contest, and some 34,900 candidates were approved to run for the 500 national and 715 provincial assembly seats.[2]

On 25 May 2018, businessman and former governor of Katanga Province Moïse Katumbi discussed with fellow opposition presidential candidate Félix Tshisekedi, son of the late opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, at the Atlantic Council about fielding a single opposition candidate.[45] In early September 2018, he again called on the opposition to unite behind a single candidate.[46]

As of August 2018, the country's Independent National Electoral Commission was reviewing candidates.[10] A preliminary list of candidates, including 25 names, was published on 10 August 2018. Another list was published on 24 August, and the final one was published on 19 September.[47]

On 3 September, the Constitutional Court of the DRC upheld the national election commission's decision to ban six potential candidates from taking part in the election, including opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.[48][49]

Disqualified candidates