DRC: Elections under the Second Republic

Extracted from: "Democratic Republic of Congo" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 68-70.

The invasion of the Katanga province in March 1977 by Angola-based rebels of the Front National pour la Libération du Congo (FNLC) changed the course of events in the country. In fact, in the aftermath of the rebellion that was defeated only after the military intervention by the French and Moroccan troops with American logistical support, Western governments exerted pressure on Mobutu to introduce a number of political reforms. A new electoral law was enacted. In December 1977, a presidential election was held and Mobutu was elected unopposed, obtaining over 98.15% of the positive votes.

Mobutu seized power on 24 November 1965 and banned party politics. On 20 May 1967 he founded his party, the Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR). Subsequently all Congolese citizens automatically became members of the MPR. In June 1967 a new constitution was prepared by a commission appointed by Mobutu, and approved by referendum. The 1967 constitution established a unitary state, a presidential system and a one-chamber legislature called the National Assembly and later renamed the Legislative Council, with substantially reduced powers. Additionally, the constitution limited the number of legally authorised political parties to a maximum of two. Finally, the 1967 constitution introduced female suffrage.

A census took place in early 1970. Presidential elections were organised in October-November 1970, when Mobutu reached 40 years, the minimum age requirement for presidential candidates. As Mobutu was the sole candidate proposed by the MPR, there were two types of ballot papers: the green ballot paper representing a positive vote and the red ballot, symbol of anarchy, chaos and foreign ideologies, representing a negative vote. There were containers filled with ballot papers. Voters had to choose publicly between the green and red ballot paper and put it into the ballot box. The secrecy of the vote was therefore not ensured. Standing unopposed, Mobutu was elected for a seven-year term. Mobutu managed to obtain more positive votes than the total number of registered voters, in a system where voting was not compulsory.

Legislative elections took place on 14 and 15 November 1970 for a five-year term. Candidates were selected by the Political Bureau of the MPR and presented to the electorate on a single list. They obtained over 99% of the vote out of 9 763 510 valid ballot papers. Only 72 378 voted against the candidates.

By the year 1975, however, the parliament had lost any influence over policy-making. Its new function became that of merely endorsing the decisions of the Political Bureau. This role was confirmed by the 1974 constitutional revision, which consecrated the supremacy of the party over the state. The government was renamed the Executive Council of the MPR and the parliament became known as the National Legislative Council of the MPR.

In addition to these changes, the election of members of parliament was modified. The "costly and complicated" electoral process involving the use of a secret ballot was replaced with a "cheaper, simpler and practical" operation by which voters chose their representatives by acclaim. Hence, parliamentary "elections" took place on 3 November 1975 in stadiums and other public places, where MP candidates stood before an unregistered electorate and got elected, just by cheering, for a five-year term.