DRC: Electoral Operation of the 1965 election

Extracted from: "Democratic Republic of Congo" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 66-67.

There were 223 political parties contesting for 167 seats. Whereas the 1960 elections were fundamentally ethnically or regionally-based, in 1965 there was a remarkable effort by political actors to form coalition beyond their provinces.

The main coalition was led by Prime Minister Tshombe who, moving beyond his narrow regionally-focused CONAKAT, was starting to develop a national ambition. People from all the provinces of the Congo were encouraged to join the coalition. The Léopoldville section of CONAKAT was transformed into the Convention Nationale Congolaise (CONACO), a grouping of about fifty political parties and ethnic associations. At its Luluabourg congress held from 7 to 20 February 1965, the delegates decided to come together with the objective of ensuring Tshombe's victory in the forthcoming elections.

The Nationalist parties that won the 1960 elections had become a considerably smaller coalition by 1965. Herbert Weiss (1967, 221) argues that several factors prevented nationalist parties from remaining the main political groups. First, divisions within major nationalist parties, such as MNC/Lumumba and PSA, had weakened the coalition. Second, with the outbreak of rebellions in 1964 in the Kwilu province and in eastern Congo, many Lumumbist leaders had joined the insurgents, leaving their parties weaker. Finally, many MNC/Lumumba leaders were killed or imprisoned. Additionally, political conditions in the territories controlled by the national army, the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC), were extremely unfavourable to officials of Lumumbist parties. However, after having announced that they wouldn't take part in the elections because they wouldn't be democratic, Lumumbist parties finally decided to participate in the elections. Their coalition was called the Alliance des Mouvements Nationalistes Congolais - Lumumba (AMNCL).

The 1965 parliamentary elections took place from 18 March to 30 April 1965, moving from one electoral group or district to another. The electoral groups coincided with the boundaries of the six former provinces plus the city of Léopoldville (Kinshasa). Elections started in Eastern Katanga province and ended in the Orientale province. Planned to last 6 weeks, the elections lasted 8 weeks due to logistical problems. If the elections were generally peaceful in the major towns of the country, the same could not be said of the countryside, particularly in eastern Congo. In addition, voters were confused by the multiplicity of electoral lists. In some eastern province electoral districts, there was no electoral contest as single lists were submitted.

However, the most serious disruption of the voting process occurred in Léopoldville on 28 March 1965, with the majority of polling stations lacking electoral personnel and material. This compelled the government to postpone the operation. Elections in Léopoldville finally took place on 28 April 1965. No major problems were reported in the 570 polling stations.

Tshombe's CONACO won 122 of the 167 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. However, once the results were announced a number of candidates and parties disputed them. The Léopoldville Court of Appeal, acting as the Constitutional Court, accepted only 6 appeals and cancelled the results of national legislative elections in the following districts: Kivu Central, Goma-Rutshuru, Cuvette Centrale, Fizi, Kwilu and Maniema. According to Weiss (1967, 224), the court justified its decision with the following reasons:

  • absence of ballot box in some polling stations;
  • refusal by electoral authorities to allow certain candidates to enter the polling stations;
  • refusal to place photographs of some candidates on the wall of polling stations;
  • intervention of members of some parties with the aim of rigging the results of the elections; and finally
  • in the Cuvette Centrale, the court felt that the legal authorities did not ensure effectively the safety of electoral commission officials and their freedom of movement.

The President of the Republic appointed new members of the special electoral commissions and determined the date of the new elections in four districts. Fresh elections took place in Kivu Central, Goma-Rutshuru, Cuvette Centrale and Kwilu from 8 to 22 August 1965. The results of these elections were only slightly different from those of the March-April elections. Although the CONACO lost some seats, it still had the absolute majority and was entitled to form the new government. As for the districts of Fizi and Maniema, the Court of Appeal designated the representatives of these electoral districts in early 1966, instead of recommending the holding new elections by universal suffrage.


WEISS, H 1967 "Congo 1965", CRISP, Princeton University Press