Congolese are stiffly against changing the country’s constitution to allow President Joseph Kabila to stand for a third term. They also believe the incumbent should step down at the end of his mandate in December, an opinion poll published on Tuesday has concluded.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) ruling coalition and part of the opposition have agreed to delay the vote from this November to April 2018, citing difficulties enrolling millions of voters.
But the country’s main opposition bloc rejects the accord, saying it allows Kabila to cling to power and remove constitutional term limits.
The African Union-led mediator and his team presented the dialogue agreement to Kabila who in turn lauded their work and said it was consistent with the DRC’s constitution.
Who conducted the poll and with what sample size?
The poll was carried out by Congo Research Group at New York University. It was done in collaboration with a Congolese polling institute.
It sampled 7,545 respondents in Congo’s 26 provinces in face-to-face interviews between May and September this year.
Highlights of the poll findings
Over 81 percent of the respondents opposed changing the constitution to allow Kabila to stand for a third term. The president has not expressed any intention of going for a third term.
Seventy-four percent say he should leave office this year. A similar position is held by the opposition group led by leading opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
If the presidential election were held today, Moise Katumbi was the most likely to lead followed by Tshisekedi then Kabila. Katumbi scored 33 percent, 18 percent for Tshisekedi and 7.8 percent for Kabila.
Kabila also scored 44 percent approval rating. Katumbi and Tshisekedi received 85.8 and 65.3 percent ratings respectively.
Over 48 percent of respondents said they would participate in protests if elections were rigged or delayed.
Poll variation and margin of error
The research results, which varied little based on socio-economic status, gender and religion, show a marked drop in support for Kabila, who officially won 48.9 percent of the vote in 2011, a consequence of a lack of economic development and poor security.
Exhaustive surveys are almost non-existent in Congo, where poor roads and little electricity make polling difficult or unreliable. The Congo Research Group said its poll had a margin of error of 5 percent.
Katumbi, the multi-millionaire former governor of Congo’s copper-rich Katanga region, declared his candidacy for president in May 2016 but was then sentenced in absentia to three years in prison for real estate fraud.
He left the DRC to seek medical attention after security forces fired tear gas at his supporters when they accompanied him to a prosecutor in Lubumbashi on charges of hiring mercenaries.
Kabila won the last polls in 2011 with Tshisekedi, 83, finishing runner-up. Observers however said the process was marred by fraud.
Congo is Africa’s largest copper producer but ranks 176 out of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index.
Congo has not experienced a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960. Dozens were killed last month in demonstrations in the capital, Kinshasa.