AFRICA: Egyptians, Congolese Go to the Polls
A Tale of Two Countries
Large turnouts are being reported in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo as voters in both African nations went to the polls in rare and crucial elections Monday (Nov. 28).
After a week of violent demonstrations against the interim military rulers, observers – and Egyptians – were surprised by the large turnout and only sporadic violence in Egypt’s parliamentary vote. It was the first election in Egypt since the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak in February. And many would say it was Egypt’s first free and fair election – ever.
Turnout was also large in the DRC, but missing ballots, long lines and mob violence against poll workers and voters in several locations marred the process. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is expected to win re-election in what many observers predict will be a fraud-plagued vote. It is only the second democratic election in the Central African nation’s history.
Egypt under Mubarak, a former Air Force general, is a long-time partner with the United States in Middle East strategy and has been a recipient of more than $1 billion-a-year in foreign aid and military assistance since signing a peace treaty with Israel. Mubarak’s 30-year rule ended when he was forced out by the military following weeks of demonstrations against corruption and civil rights abuses during Egypt’s phase of the Arab Spring revolt in the region.
Now many Egyptians are unhappy that the military is reluctant to turns over the reins of power to a civilian government. The opposition has been split and many liberals are boycotting the election. That is expected to be a windfall for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that was suppressed under Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been actively politicking and mounting a well-organized get-out-the-vote push. Leaders of the Brotherhood say they would keep the treaty with Israel if they come to power, but their ascendency worries analysts in the U.S. and Israel – as well as Egypt’s 8 million Coptic Christians.
With a population of more than 80 million, Egypt is the most populous Arab country.
The first round of voting for Egypt’s lower house continued today with additional rounds and runoffs continuing into January. Voting for the Parliament’s upper house doesn’t start until January with results expected in March.
Farther south, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (formerly known as Zaire and the Belgian Congo), there also were long lines at polling places Monday but voting for president and lawmakers was extended to today (Nov. 29) because of violence, late deliveries of ballots and other irregularities around the country.
It’s only the second relatively-free election in the country’s history. The DRC, which has been plagued by war, government corruption and violent crime and terrorism for the past two decades is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. But in human development (with benchmarks like health, education and living standards) it finished dead last among the world’s nations in a recent United Nations report.
Complicating the DRC election is the sheer size of the country (30 million potential voters) and the ballot (11 presidential candidates and 19,000 candidates for 500 seats in parliament). Ballots to some remote areas were delivered by U.N. peacekeepers in helicopters. The ballots in some districts are the size of newspapers.
While Kabilla is expected to win re-election, observers fear that if the election is close it could lead to more violence.
Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, News Developments. Tags: Africa, Defense, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, election violence, nation building, soft power.