Image by Mmalembo, from Wikimedia Commons.  Accessed 15.06.2018

 

Despite the advantages of competing against a deeply unpopular president, the DRC’s political opposition has long suffered from deep divisions and factional infighting, and thus far has been given little chance of unseating President Joseph Kabila in the twice-delayed December 2018 elections. However, recent developments suggest that this may be set to change, as the opposition at last appears to be making attempts to present a united front in its efforts to appoint a single candidate to challenge Kabila in the upcoming elections.

In May 2017, the DRC’s two leading opposition politicians met in public for the first time to discuss the possibility of fielding a single candidate in the upcoming election, raising hopes of Kabila being unseated through an official electoral process. In a show of solidarity, Félix Tshisekedi and Moïse Katumbi – arguably the DRC’s two most prominent opposition figures – travelled to the US and attended an event at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center to discuss their hopes for the upcoming elections.

While both men had previously announced separate bids to succeed Kabila, during the meeting they confirmed that their “teams [were] hard at work developing a common program and when the time comes the designation of a sole candidate at the next presidential election” (Bloomberg, 25.05.2018).

While subsequent announcements and media reports have since suggested that several other prominent opposition figures – including Vital Kamerhe and Martin Fayulu – are in agreement with this arrangement, there is – as of yet – no clear frontrunner.

Many obstacles must still be overcome before the opposition can appoint a consensus candidate, who has the power to unite the opposition under one platform and present a credible challenge to Kabila’s rule (Al Jazeera, 09.06.2018).

Impact Points

  • The DRC’s presidential election was originally scheduled for December 2016, but has already twice been delayed, leading to widespread unrest and uncertainty over the country’s political future.
  • Despite the government’s waning popularity, the enduring presence of dozens of different opposition parties and factions has thus far not posed any considerable threat to Kabila’s rule.
  • With elections tentatively arranged for December 2018, the opposition appears to be finally making attempts to present a united and credible challenge for the presidency through the appointment of a single consensus candidate.
  • However, with several notorious opposition figures vying for the position, it remains to be seen how this new strategy will play out. Regardless, any change in leadership is likely to affect businesses operating in an already challenging commercial environment.