Votes on Sale for $50,000 Repulse Would-Be Senators in Congo
(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers are offering their votes to prospective senators in the Democratic Republic of Congo for as much as $50,000 apiece, according to candidates who’ve quit before the election is held on Friday.
The allegations raise the prospect of further discord in the world’s biggest cobalt producer two months after a disputed vote installed former opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi as president. Runner-up Martin Fayulu said the Dec. 30 presidential and parliamentary polls were rigged and accused Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila of making a backroom deal to deprive him of his rightful victory. Both deny any wrongdoing.
In the run-up to the senatorial vote, at least eight prominent candidates withdrew, citing graft. Senators in Congo are elected in a secret ballot by members of the nation’s 26 provincial parliaments, which are dominated by parties aligned with Kabila.
Congo’s attorney general, Flory Kabange Numbi, wrote to the president of the electoral commission on March 9 requesting the vote be postponed to allow police to investigate the alleged corruption. He’s also asked for a delay to a gubernatorial ballot scheduled for March 26 for similar reasons.
“Holding elections in these conditions would open the way to disputes and murderous violence,” Numbi said in the letter.
The electoral commission rejected the plea and confirmed both the senatorial and gubernatorial elections will go ahead as planned.
Some parliamentarians are asking for $25,000 to $50,000 in exchange for their support, said Vidiye Tshimanga, an adviser to Tshisekedi who pulled out as a candidate in the capital, Kinshasa. “Sometimes there are also certain senatorial candidates who go to the lawmakers and drive up the price, creating a snowball effect,” he said.
Luzolo Bambi, an anti-corruption adviser to Kabila who has yet to be replaced by Tshisekedi, wrote to Congo’s public prosecutor Feb. 20 to complain about representatives willing to sell their votes to candidates. He’s also abandoned his bid to become one of four senators from Kongo Central province.
Lawmakers in the province of Kasai Central were demanding up to $30,000 a vote, said Evariste Mabi Mulumba, who’s served in the Senate since 2007 as a member of Kabila’s coalition. He withdrew from the race March 13 in a letter to the electoral commission. Tryphon Kinkiey, a former Kabila minister who campaigned for Tshisekedi, said some parliamentarians in Kwilu, where he’d been seeking a Senate seat before his withdrawal from the race, requested vehicles.
There were exceptions. Andre-Alain Atundu, a spokesman for Kabila’s coalition and a senatorial candidate in Mongala province, said no lawmakers had solicited bribes from him in exchange for votes.
There’s corruption “at all the levels” in Congo’s elections, said Eve Bazaiba, a spokeswoman for Fayulu’s campaign, who is now standing in both the senatorial and gubernatorial elections.
“The republic is based on cases of corruption, of total illegitimacy,” she said. The allies of Tshisekedi and Kabila who’ve bowed out of the Senatorial election are “getting a taste of their own medicine,” Bazaiba said.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.