On New Year’s Day in the Democratic Republic of Congo 33 women were subjected to mass rape in the eastern province of South Kivu. On the same day, Joseph Kabila, the current President of DRC, proclaimed that the situation in the east of the country was “calm and improving.” The situation in the east, however, is far from calm, and the dramatic changes to the DRC’s constitution that Kabila enacted just days later may undermine the stability of the DRC as a whole.
The constitutional reforms passed in parliament on Saturday deliver many new powers to the ruling government, aiming to strengthen Joseph Kabila’s chances of re-election later this year. Kabila took office in 2001, but it was not until 2006 that he was actually elected, under an electoral system that required the winning presidential candidate to secure over 50 per cent of the vote. This meant a two-round system, where the top two candidates in the first round had to fight out a second round in order to win the absolute majority. Kabila’s reforms mean that in future there will only be a single round of voting, and the next president can now be elected without having secured 50 per cent of the vote.
The implications of these reforms go beyond the electoral system. Firstly, Kabila’s reforms threaten to weaken consensus politics in the DRC. After ten years of civil war and a further ten of brittle peace, consensus is crucial and minor…