Catholic Church re­jects Congo vote re­sult, loser de­cries ‘coup’

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

CONGO’S Catholic Church, one of the coun­try’s most re­spected in­sti­tu­tions, chal­lenged Thurs­day’s of­fi­cial re­sults from a chaotic pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, sug­gest­ing its tally did not give vic­tory to op­po­si­tion leader Felix Tshisekedi.

Though bish­ops stopped short of nam­ing a win­ner, the an­nounce­ment sets up a po­ten­tial show­down with Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s gov­ern­ment over a poll many fear could pro­voke more vi­o­lence in the vast and volatile na­tion of 80 mil­lion peo­ple.

The elec­toral com­mis­sion (Ceni) an­nounced overnight that Mr Tshisekedi, 55, had won the De­cem­ber 30 vote, edg­ing out an­other chal­lenger, busi­ness­man Martin Fayulu.

“The re­sults from the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as pub­lished by Ceni do not cor­re­spond to the data col­lected by our ob­ser­va­tion mis­sion from polling sta­tions and vote counts,” the Na­tional Epis­co­pal Con­fer­ence of Congo ob­servers said in a state­ment.

Both France and Bel­gium also ex­pressed doubts. And three diplo­mats briefed on the find­ings of the 40,000-strong Catholic ob­server mis­sion said they showed Mr Fayulu win­ning.

Anger over the re­sults, and the Fayulu camp’s sus­pi­cions Mr Tshisekedi won by cut­ting a power-shar­ing deal with Mr Ka­bila, have cast a cloud over what is meant to be Congo’s first demo­cratic trans­fer of power in 59 years of in­de­pen­dence.

In con­trast to pre­vi­ous polls, elec­tion of­fi­cials did not pro­vide a re­gional break­down of the re­sults.

Mr Fayulu may ap­peal to Congo’s con­sti­tu­tional court.

By con­trast, Mr Ka­bila’s hand­picked can­di­date, Em­manuel Ra­mazani Shadary, who fin­ished a dis­tant third, con­ceded.

“Of course we are not happy as our can­di­date lost but the Con­golese peo­ple have cho­sen,” Mr Shadary’s spokesman Barn­abe Kikaya Bin Karubi said.

Mr Tshisekedi’s win raises ques­tions over the fu­ture of Mr Ka­bila, who has gov­erned since his fa­ther’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 2001 and over­stayed the of­fi­cial end of his man­date by two years.

Mr Ka­bila says he wants to re­main in­volved in pol­i­tics and may run again in 2023, when he will no longer be term-lim­ited.

Mr Tshisekedi in­her­ited the lead­er­ship of the UDPS party when his fa­ther, Eti­enne, died in 2017. But he lacks the ex­pe­ri­ence, po­lit­i­cal clout and fire­brand rep­u­ta­tion his fa­ther earned cam­paign­ing for democ­racy un­der three suc­ces­sive pres­i­dents.

No de­tails of any deal have emerged. But in the run-up to the re­sults, Mr Tshisekedi said Mr Ka­bila had noth­ing to fear should he come to power, com­ments an­a­lysts in­ter­preted as ef­forts to re­as­sure the pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers that in­ter­ests ac­cu­mu­lated over two decades in power were not at risk.

Mem­bers of Mr Tshisekedi’s UDPS party called the elec­tion a his­toric tri­umph in a strug­gle for democ­racy.

The in­au­gu­ra­tion had been sched­uled for Fri­day.

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