The Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (Céni) has announced that 24 candidates have been deemed eligible for the presidential election scheduled for December 20, as per a list released on Friday. However, the final list of candidates will be confirmed on November 18, on the eve of the official commencement of the election campaign, which has effectively been ongoing for several weeks.
Among the provisional candidates who submitted their nominations to Céni between September 9 and October 8, the incumbent president, Félix Tshisekedi, who assumed office in January 2019, has sought re-election for another five-year term. In opposition to him, several prominent figures from the opposition have emerged, including Dr. Denis Mukwege, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his efforts on behalf of sexual assault survivors. Other notable contenders are Moïse Katumbi, a wealthy businessman and former governor of Katanga (southeast); Martin Fayulu, who claimed victory in the 2018 presidential election; MP Delly Sesanga; and former prime ministers Adolphe Muzito and Augustin Matata Ponyo, with the latter facing allegations of misappropriation of public funds.
The central question remains whether the fragmented opposition can unite behind a single candidate, which appears crucial for their success in a one-round election. Among the 24 candidates, only one is a woman, Marie-Josée Ifoku Mputa, who also ran in the December 2018 presidential election when Céni registered 21 candidates.
The presidential election will coincide with legislative, provincial, and communal elections, featuring thousands of candidate registrations. The political climate has been tense for several months, with opposition parties expressing concerns about democratic limitations and the belief that the elections will be tainted by fraud. Despite authorities’ assurances, many Congolese, given past experiences, harbor doubts about the organization and timing of the vote and fear potential electoral irregularities.