Tag Archives: African presidents

DRC – Finally preparing for a presidential election, but who will run?

With a two-year delay, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is finally preparing for a presidential election on December 23, 2018. The deadline for candidate declarations is August 8. Many observers still wonder whether term-limited President Joseph Kabila will find a way to run, though moves to adopt a new constitution or change key constitutional provisions have seemingly been abandoned [see earlier blog post about such moves here]. The smiling face of the president adorning huge billboards in Lubumbashi or printed on t-shirts in Kinshasa is not reassuring to his critics, who take it as an indication that “he wants to stay.” Kabila supporters from the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) pooh-pooh such concerns, arguing it is a way of celebrating the president’s achievements.

It is peculiar that with less than a month to go before the window for candidate submissions closes, the PPRD candidate is not yet known. Though the process for selecting that candidate remains opaque, it is clear there will not be an open primary election. According to André-Alain Atundu, spokesperson for the presidential majority, primaries contributed to destroying the Republican Party in the US and the Socialist Party in France. Kabila tightly controls the candidate selection process in an effort to manage political egos and “avoid a war in his political family,” in Atundu’s words.

On July 1, Kabila launched a formal coalition – the Common Front for Congo (FCC) – that will throw its support behind a single candidate for the ruling majority. Wise move, as the constitution was changed in 2011 to eliminate the requirement for a runoff in the event no candidate wins an absolute majority (Kabila was reelected with 49 percent of the votes later that year). Members of the FCC include parties and civil society structures currently represented in the government of national unity created following the political agreement of 31 December 2016, but is open to others. On July 7, the Unified Lumumbist Party (PALU) also signed on to the charter of the FCC, despite a move earlier in the year by PALU to join forces in the coming elections with two of the major opposition parties, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba and the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) of Vital Kamerhe.

Under Kabila’s leadership, the FCC aims to run joint candidates with a common program at all levels of elections: presidential, legislative and regional elections that will all be held simultaneously. Remains to be seen who Kabila will favor as presidential candidate and whether the FCC will resist as the egos of those not selected are bruised. Potential choices include National Assembly President Aubin Minaku; former Prime Minister Matata Ponyo; Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, former vice prime minister for the interior, recently promoted to party secretary for the PPRD; and a number of possible outsiders.

On the opposition’s side, the front runners are easier to identify. Despite significant talk about the need for a single candidate to avoid splitting the vote, there is as yet no formal agreement on who that should be. The three top potential candidates are: Moise Katumbi, former governor of Katanga and former ally of Kabila, who has had his passport revoked and currently cannot return from Europe; Félix Thisekedi, son of historical opposition leader Etienne Thisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) who passed away last year; and Jean-Pierre Bemba, president of the MLC and former rebel leader, who came in second to Kabila in the 2006 presidential run-off. Bemba, who has served 10 years of prison in The Hague, was acquitted on appeal by the International Criminal Court on June 8 from charges for crimes against humanity. He has been promised a passport to return to the DRC by the Congolese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the debate is on between lawyers in Kinshasa as to whether Bemba can register as candidate, given on the one hand his conviction for witness tampering at the ICC, and on the other the fact that he does not yet have a voter card – which is required to register. Finally, former President of the National Assembly Vital Kamerhe appears ready to back whoever emerges as the strongest opposition candidate.

If indeed an agreement is reached among opposition leaders on fielding a single candidate, how would such a consensus candidate be selected? Via a “mini primary” election, as Kamerhe has suggested, an idea also supported by Katumbi in the past? If so, who would vote and how would such a primary election be organized in time? The MLC party congress to take place on July 12-13 could provide a first good indication of the opposition’s ability to move ahead in unified rank, depending on whether the party opts to put forward its own candidate, and if so how other opposition parties react.

July 25 marks the start of the process for submitting candidates for the presidential and legislative elections. We can foresee two weeks of intense political maneuverings in both political camps between now and then.

Marijke Breuning and John Ishiyama – Rebels-Turned-President and Cabinet Stability

This is a guest post by Marijke Breuning and John Ishiyama. It is based on the article by John Ishiyama, Marijke Breuning, and Michael Widmeier, ‘Organising to rule: structure, agent and presidential management styles in Africa’, that was recently published in Democratization. The article is now available ungated and free to download until the end of February.

Former rebel leaders who become presidents are significantly less likely to make major changes to their cabinet than other presidents. We show this in our study of the impact of presidents’ professional backgrounds on how they manage their cabinet.

Why would former rebels be less likely to replace their cabinet ministers or move them to different posts? We argue that presidents who were former rebel leaders will be less likely to make changes to their cabinets, because their experiences as rebel leaders predispose them to maintaining a team of ministers whom they know and trust.

There has been surprising little attention paid to the impact of presidents’ professional backgrounds on how they constitute and manage their cabinets. Our study begins to fill that gap, examining 98 individual presidential administrations from 36 countries in Africa with presidential or semi-presidential systems, for the period 1990-2009. We included only those presidents who had served at least one complete year in office.

We focus on Africa, because there has been a strong focus on the personality of the president, perhaps due to the neo-patrimonial nature of the state in the continent. However, there has not been much attention paid to presidential management style and its impact on cabinet stability in Africa. Yet, cabinet stability, as well as political and ethnic inclusivity, may be important keys to the durability of a regime – something that is especially relevant for post-conflict societies.

We argue that, after becoming president, the previous experience as a rebel leader is not erased, but instead has an impact on the style of leadership. Rebel leaders have been said to be motivated by both greed and grievance, but often they also have a transcendental goal that motivates followers. They may seek a fundamental change in the political status quo, an end to colonialism, a social revolution, or the creation a new state. All of these objectives require a great deal of persuasion. After all, the potential cost of being a rebel is death.

Hence, rebel leaders need to overcome great odds to entice others to follow them. The result is often a tight-knit group of comrades with strong solidarity. We expect that this revolutionary camaraderie carries over into the former rebel leader’s executive administration.

We find that this is indeed the case, at least in Africa: presidents who are former rebel leaders are significantly less likely than other presidents to engage in major cabinet changes. We found that, on average, the likelihood of major cabinet turnover was 34% when a former rebel was president, whereas the likelihood of major cabinet turnover was 57% for all other presidents. This is shown graphically in Figure 1. This finding supports the idea that rebel commanders, after they become president, seek to maintain solidarity and stability in cabinets – and are more likely to do so than other presidents.

Figure 1: Presidents who were former rebel leaders are less likely to engage in major cabinet turnover (with 95% confidence intervals)

Do these stable cabinets of former rebel leaders differ from those of other leaders on other dimensions as well? We investigated whether former rebel leaders and other presidents differ in the political and ethnic inclusivity of their cabinets. We also sought to establish whether it makes a difference if the leader came to power through regular (e.g. elections or other legally sanctioned processes) or irregular means (such as coups, rebellions, or mass protests).

We found that former rebels leaders are not different from other presidents in terms of the partisan inclusivity of their cabinets. Instead, the political inclusivity of the cabinet was lessened by greater fractionalization of the legislature, as well as the dominance of the president’s party in the legislature. The more dominant the president’s party, the more politically homogeneous and, hence, less inclusive the cabinet.

There is a significant difference, however, between former rebel leaders and other presidents in terms of the inclusion of various ethnic groups in their cabinets. This finding can perhaps be explained by the nature of many African rebellions. Insurrections are often fueled by ethnic grievances and, once in power, a former rebel leader will seek to include only members of his or her own ethnic group. This is consistent with the desire to work only with subordinates the leader knows well and trusts.

Interestingly, presidents who came to power via irregular means (such as coups, rebellions, or mass protests) were more likely to engage in major cabinet turnovers during their presidencies than those who had come to power via regular means (such as elections and other legally sanctioned processes). This may suggest that presidents who come to power under conditions of political crisis have greater uncertainty about their political allies, and this may result in greater turnover in the cabinet. This is not a surprising result: turnover is higher for presidents who ascend to power via coups, rebellion or protest, because they seek to purge the cabinet of holdovers from the previous administration.

Our findings support the notion that the characteristics the president as agent, here operationalized as the leader’s previous experiences, have a powerful effect on his or her managerial behavior. We theorized that rebel leaders are more likely to be transformative leaders, who value transcendental political goals and group solidarity. This translates into greater cabinet stability, but also into less inclusivity (at least in ethnic terms).

In sum, the characteristics of the president as a political agent – and particularly his or her professional background – warrant far more attention than they have thus far received.

Marijke Breuning is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. She can be reached at Marijke.Breuning@unt.edu

John Ishiyama is University Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. He can be reached at John.Ishiyama@unt.edu