Congo’s surprise election result could face court challenge
Outgoing president made a backroom deal with winner, rival candidate claims
KINSHASA, CONGO—CONGO appeared ready to achieve its first peaceful transfer of power with the surprise victory Thursday of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, despite clear signs that a rival opposition leader actually won in a landslide.
With no protests in the capital and limited violence elsewhere in the vast Central African country, the population seemed to be choosing stability over credibility, accepting Tshisekedi’s win and the end to President Joseph Kabila’s long and turbulent rule.
But a court challenge to the results could spin the country into chaos, observers warned.
The influential Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 observers at all polling stations, said official results did not match its findings, and diplomats briefed on them said rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu won easily.
Fayulu alleges that Kabila engineered a backroom deal with the largely untested Tshisekedi to protect his power base in a country with staggering mineral wealth. An outspoken campaigner against Congo’s widespread graft — it ranked 161th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest index — Fayulu denounced the official results as “robbery.”
As night fell, scores of police with automatic rifles and tear gas launchers were positioned along a road in Kinshasa leading to the Kingabwa neighbourhood, a Fayulu stronghold. One vehicle was filled with military personnel in combat gear.
It was not immediately clear whether Fayulu would challenge the election results in court. Candidates have two Supporters of presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi react following the announcement of the provisional results of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) Thursday.
days after the announcement to file challenges and the constitutional court has seven days to consider them before
results are final.
Careful statements by the international community did not congratulate Tshisekedi,
merely taking note of official results and urging peace and stability in a country with little of it. Observers appeared to be watching for the reactions of Fayulu’s supporters.
Two diplomats said all major election observation missions, including those of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, showed similar results to those of the Catholic Church. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Several Congo analysts agreed that it appeared Kabila made a quiet agreement with Tshisekedi, saying Fayulu would have posed more of a threat.
Britain’s foreign secretary said he was “very concerned about discrepancies” in Congo’s results, adding that the UN Security Council would discuss the matter. France’s foreign minister cast doubt on the results and Belgium’s foreign minister expressed concern. There was no immediate United States comment.
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