Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nascent democracy in DR Congo

As I mentioned back in February, the Democratic Republic of Congo has a new constitution, one that introduces democratic rule to a country that hasn't had free elections in 40 years.

Well, today was the big day, reports the BBC, and the polls are now closed:

The elections were aimed at ending a long civil war, with 32 candidates, including incumbent Joseph Kabila, contesting the presidency.

More than 9,000 candidates were running for parliament and some 25m voters, were protected by the biggest UN peacekeeping operation in the world.

Counting is already under way, but full results are not expected for weeks.

Democracy can be difficult, of course, and the first free election in 40 years in DR Congo hasn't been without its problems. There are already allegations of voting irregularities, a few of the presidential candidates are "the leaders of former armed factions," and the campaign itself was marked by incidents of violence.

Still, a free election with problems is better than an unfree election or no election at all. It will take a long time for all the old wounds to heal, but this is a promising step towards peace.

One hopes the Congolese give democracy a chance.

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