The electoral campaign commenced on November 19, 2023, marking the final stretch before the general elections on December 20. This multifaceted ballot involves 44 million voters selecting a new president, provincial and national deputies, as well as municipal councilors.
Several candidates were already on the ground for the first day of the campaign. The incumbent president seeking re-election, Félix Tshisekedi, launched his campaign in grand style with a major rally in Kinshasa, drawing a crowd of nearly 80,000 people.
Opposition leader Martin Fayulu also had a successful start to his campaign in his stronghold, Bandundu-ville, Kwilu, attracting a substantial turnout. Another presidential candidate, Deputy Delly Sesanga, campaigned in the neighboring province of Kwango, in Kenge.
A Logistical Challenge for Candidates
The vastness of the DRC, spanning over 2.3 million square kilometers, poses a logistical challenge for candidates who must navigate the country within just one month. The DRC is the second-largest country on the continent, after Algeria. Moreover, the campaign coincides with the rainy season, making some roads impassable. Preliminary travel itineraries suggest a race against time, involving journeys by car, plane, and even boat.
In broader terms, the DRC’s elections are monumental. With 25 presidential candidates, over 25,800 legislative candidates, and 44,000 provincial candidates, the campaign involves a massive number of participants simultaneously canvassing the country.
Presidential Election: Opposition in Disarray
In the presidential race, incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term. He has managed to unite his camp, with several political figures, including his two deputy prime ministers, Vital Kamerhe and Jean-Pierre Bemba, supporting him.
The opposition, however, faces complexities. The election is conducted in a single round, and mathematically, unity increases the chances of success. Yet, the opposition is fragmented. Key figures, such as the unsuccessful 2018 presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, former governor of Katanga Moïse Katumbi, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege, have all entered the race. Two distinct blocs are emerging: one around Moïse Katumbi, joined by former Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon, and the other around Martin Fayulu.
Suspicions of Fraud
The opposition is concerned about potential fraud. Throughout the process, there has been a significant distrust between the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and several candidates. Some candidates refused to sign the code of conduct charter on November 13, expressing suspicion. Although they requested a new meeting to discuss the matter, the CENI president, Denis Kadima, declined, emphasizing that formal and informal channels of communication remained open.