The presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo is headed to a runoff in October. Incumbent Joseph Kabila won about 45% of the vote, and his closest challenger was nearly 25 percentage points behind.
Normally, I am skeptical about the value of rules requiring a runoff when the leading candidate is so far ahead of the closest challenger. In such situations there is usually little chance that a runoff could stop the plurality candidate. While Kabila will almost certainly win, the tense nature of the ceasefire between Congo’s various militias probably makes the jockeying for alliances between now and the runoff a valuable exercise (even though the possibility of a blow-up also remains present).
Additionally, such a large gap between the top two candidates often means that the second candidate has barely surpassed the third. In such a case, there is always the chance that the third candidate would be a more viable opponent to the leader than is the second candidate. This is an inherent flaw in two-round systems, especially in the context of political fragmentation. However, in this case, the political situation is so fragmented that the second candidate actually has quite a substantial lead over the third.
The votes shares of the top four candidates are: 44.8, 20.0, 13.0, 4.8. (The remaining 17.4% of votes is divided among twenty-nine other candidates, no one of whom has more than 3.5%! If even a few of those candidates also had legisaltive slates that won seats in their respective main districts, this will be one fragmented legislature!)
See Yebo Gogo for futher discussion, and a map that shows how regionally divided the parties are. The runoff campaign will be an opportunity for Kabila to try to build political support in the west, where he is much weaker.
UPDATE: At the propagation bench, Jonathan suggests that a victory by Kabila is a good deal less likely than I imply above. As I note in response to him, if Kabila loses, it just may be a record in the history of majority-runoff presidential elections!