With six months to go before the elections, the campaign is shaping up to be very tense in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the opposition raging against a regime determined to stay in power, against a backdrop of conflict in the east and social crisis.
A single-round presidential election is scheduled for 20 December in this vast country of some 100 million inhabitants, along with elections for national and provincial deputies and local councilors. Félix Tshisekedi, President since January 2019, is running for a second five-year term.
Having experienced this at the time of the previous elections, which were postponed for two years, some Congolese still have doubts about the organisation of the vote in time and are expecting what they call a "landslide".
But the authorities insist that the elections will indeed take place "within the constitutional timeframe" and, above all, the National Electoral Commission (CENI) has so far kept to its timetable.
It has "enrolled" (registered) voters and issued them with cards. This has enabled it to redo the electoral register, which was cleaned up by an "external audit" and served as the basis for the law on the "distribution of seats", which was promptly passed by Parliament and promulgated on 15 June.
Technically, "the CENI has demonstrated that it can meet the deadlines... A shift is less and less likely", notes Trésor Kibangula, political analyst at the Ebuteli research institute.
Confidence and transparency are a different story.
At the end of last year, Ebuteli expressed concern that the electoral process was "badly underway", with the risk of "violent demonstrations". At issue: the highly controversial composition of the CENI itself and the Constitutional Court, the last electoral lock.
"In fact, at the legal level, the government has all the levers", says another observer of Congolese politics, speaking on condition of anonymity.
For several weeks now, the groups of four opponents who are declared presidential candidates have been organising demonstrations to demand an overhaul of these bodies, which they believe will lead to fraud and chaos.
These opponents, Martin Fayulu, Moïse Katumbi, Matata Ponyo and Delly Sesanga, also consider that the electoral register is "fanciful", because "enrolment" could not take place in territories plagued by armed violence and because the "audit" was carried out in a record time of five days.
The police violently repressed one of their marches on 20 May, leading to numerous protests from the powerful Catholic Church, civil society and the international community, with a declaration from around fifteen embassies calling for "competitive, peaceful, inclusive and transparent" elections.
The camp of former president Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), meanwhile, has so far asked its supporters to boycott the electoral process.
According to Trésor Kibangula, there is still "one chance to regain public confidence", and that is to organise "a new independent and transparent audit of the electoral register". This "could help to reduce political tensions", without having to postpone the vote, says the analyst.
"The opposition continues to demand guarantees of transparency, but at the same time it must start preparing" for the elections, he also said.
Political science professor Alphonse Maindo is among those who believe that "good elections" on 20 December are impossible. Instead, he advocates a "transition" that would enable the country to prepare properly, including by "mobilizing the necessary resources".
"The next few months are going to be explosive, with demonstrations, arrests, trials and so on", fears the academic, who last year was one of the signatories of a declaration calling on Denis Mukwege to stand in the presidential elections. The famous doctor, who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of women who have been raped, has not yet said anything about his intentions.
Observers are also expecting a high level of abstention, due to a lack of confidence in the electoral process and the political class in general, but also because the main concern of many Congolese, squeezed by unemployment and inflation, is to feed their families.
The DRC has a very rich subsoil, but two-thirds of its inhabitants live below the poverty line.