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Political Parties

Christian Democrat PartyPDC Jose ENDUNDO
Congolese Rally for DemocracyRCD Azarias RUBERWA
Convention of Christian DemocratsCDC
Forces of RenewalFR Mbusa NYAMWISI
Movement for the Liberation of the CongoMLC Jean-Pierre BEMBA
People's Party for Reconstruction and DemocracyPPRD Evariste BOSHAB
Social Movement for RenewalMSR Pierre LUMBI
Unified Lumumbist PartyPALU Antoine GIZENGA
Union for the Congolese NationUNC Vital KAMERHE
Union for Democracy and Social ProgressUDPS Etienne TSHISEKEDI
Union of Mobutuist DemocratsUDEMO MOBUTU Nzanga

Political parties in the DRC are extremely weak. During the democratic awakening of the early 1990s, President Mobutu initiated the practice of protecting his power by encouraging the proliferation of political parties, and the country continues to have an excessive number of parties today. In the 2011 elections, nearly 500 parties fielded candidates, with almost 100 parties gaining seats in the National Assembly. Most parties are built around an individual politician, with very few promoting a clear political platform or set of ideas. Many parties lack internal democracy. Party leadership is overwhelmingly male, and women’s candidacy is promoted in only a few parties. Few parties are able to provide funding to their candidates, so most candidates must fund themselves and thus feel little loyalty to their party. Because people pay for their own election, they don’t feel that they owe anything to their party.

Needless to say, many if not most political parties were one-man shows and few had had any effective existence since the November 2011 elections. There is usually little ideological differentiation between them. Despite the degree of polarization suggested by the sheer number, their names are largely indistinct from each other, and the vast majority of them profess a desire for unity, union, alliance, rally, or patriotism.

President Joseph Kabila formed his own political party, the Parti pour la reconciliation et le developpement (PPRD) in March 2002. The PPRD is largely made up of politicians who were supporters of former president Laurent Kabila. Although the PPRD officially functions as a political party, it has done little to establish itself by publishing its policies or by creating the structures of a modern political party.

National provisional results released 07 September 2006 by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) for the DRC's next National Assembly show no political party or coalition controlling a majority of the chamber's 500 seats. According to the CEI figures, the People's Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD) leads all parties with 22 percent (111 seats) of the tabulated vote. Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) won a total of 13 percent (64 seats), while 63 independent candidates also won seats in the future legislature. The announcement of the provisional results was delayed for three days because of logistical problems and reported attempts at falsifying vote counts.

In addition to the PPRD, MLC and PALU, 66 other political parties won positions in the national legislature; 31 of those parties claimed just one seat. No party or coalition, however, gained a majority of seats to control the Assembly and thus the right to present a candidate for the position of prime minister.

Parties comprising the Alliance for the Presidential Majority (AMP), a coalition of 31 parties which backed President Kabila's presidential bid (including the PPRD), won an additional 49 seats, bringing the AMP's share to 160 seats, or 32 percent of the total. The Rally of Congolese Nationalists (RENACO), which includes Bemba's MLC, has won 29 additional seats, raising its total to 93 seats overall, or 19 percent of the entire Assembly.

Two other political parties held smaller but significant percentages of the overall totals. Minister of Regional Cooperation Mbusa Nyamwisi's Forces of Renewal party won 26 seats (five percent), and the Social Movement for Renewal (MSR) garnered 27 seats (five percent). Both parties may be considered potential allies of Kabila's AMP, but neither initially partnered with the coalition. If both Forces of Renewal and the MSR were to join with the AMP, the Alliance would have 213 seats (43 percent) in the National Assembly -- still not enough to control the legislature.

The larger political parties tend to be associated with specific regions of the country: the UDPS is particularly strong among the Tshiluba-speaking populations of both Kasais, PALU has historically dominated in Bandundu, the MLC is at home in Equateur, and the PPRD is strongest in the East.

The number of effective political parties is, of course, much smaller. There are two types of parties among them: those with a genuine organization and empirical roots that date back to before the transition; and those that are the institutional manifestation of a “Big Man”’s network.

The UDPS and PALU constitute the entire universe of the first category. PALU is the second largest historical Congolese party, largely anchored around the Bandundu region. The ruling Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD) provides perhaps the best example of parties created as the institutional appendage of a “Big Man.” It was set up one year after Joseph Kabila acceded to power in 2002 to provide him with a supporting organization and political legitimacy.

The Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba is a similar type of structure to the extent that it revolves around the persona of its leader, who had been imprisoned in The Hague awaiting trial with the International Criminal Court for a few years. The Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-Kisangani/Mouvement de Libération (RCD-K/ML) is also the offshoot of a rebel movement.

The last two parties with some degree of effective institutional existence are the Mouvement Social pour le Renouveau (MSR) of Pierre Lumbi and the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC) of Vital Kamerhe. The MSR has 27 députés (as it did in 2006) and is the second most significant member of the presidential majority. Lumbi had no official role in the government, although he was a close advisor to Kabila. The UNC is strong in the Kivus and won 17 seats in 2011.

In general, as they exist today, political parties are not very mature partners for democracy promotion in the Congo. They lack a democratic culture of their own and are poorly institutionalized, although both of these dimensions can arguable be improved through donor programs. They do not represent the typical party functions of citizen preference aggregation, but serve as tools of mobilization in electoral periods. In general, it is probably safe to say that few of them have the consolidation of democracy as their goal. More accurately, their goal is access to power (as it is for parties all over the world) in order to access state resources.

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Page last modified: 21-01-2019 18:50:46 ZULU