Congo election results challenged
Runner-up Martin Fayulu demands recount in court challenge observers fear could lead to violence
THE Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential runner-up said yesterday that he had asked the constitutional court to order a recount in the disputed election, declaring that “you can’t manufacture results behind closed doors”.
He could be risking more than a court refusal. Congo’s electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa has said there are only two options: the official results are accepted or the vote is annulled, keeping President Joseph Kabila in power until another election.
“They call me the people’s soldier and I will not let the people down,” Fayulu said. The court filing includes evidence from witnesses at polling stations across the country, he said.
Rifle-carrying members of Kabila’s Republican Guard were sent to Fayulu’s home and the court early yesterday. It was an attempt to stop him from filing, Fayulu said.
Fayulu has accused the declared winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, of a backroom deal with Kabila to win power in the mineral-rich nation as the ruling party candidate did poorly.
The opposition coalition for Fayulu, a businessman vocal about cleaning up widespread corruption, has said he won 61% of the vote, citing figures compiled by the Catholic Church’s 40000 election observers.
Those figures show Tshieskedi received 18%, the coalition said.
The church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has urged the electoral commission to release its detailed vote results for public scrutiny. The commission has said Tshisekedi won with 38% while Fayulu received 34%.
Earlier yesterday, the commission announced that Kabila’s ruling coalition had won an absolute majority of national assembly seats. That majority, which will choose the prime minister and form the next government, sharply reduces the chances of dramatic reforms under Tshisekedi.
Congolese now face the extraordinary situation of a presidential vote allegedly rigged in favour of the opposition. “This is more than an electoral farce; it’s a tragedy,” the Lucha activist group tweeted, noting a ruling party majority in provincial elections as well.
This could be Congo’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but observers have warned that a court challenge could lead to violence.
The December 30 election came after more than two turbulent years of delays as many Congolese worried that Kabila, in power since his father was assassinated in 2001, sought a way to stay in office to protect his sprawling assets.
“Even if Tshisekedi’s presidency survives these court challenges, he will be compromised beyond repair and reliant on Kabila, whose patronage network controls most of the country’s levers of power, including the security forces,” said Professor Pierre Engelbert, a fellow with at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre.
Statements on the election by the international community, including African regional blocs, have not congratulated Tshisekedi, with some looking forward to final detailed results and many urging against violence.
Congo’s 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the vote, though the UN peacekeeping mission reported at least a dozen deaths in protests in Kwilu province. Internet service has been cut off across the country since election day.
Tshisekedi had not been widely considered the leading candidate. Long in the shadow of his father, the late opposition leader Etienne, he broke away from the opposition’s unity candidate, Fayulu, to stand on his own.
After election results were announced, Tshisekedi said Kabila would be an “important partner” in the transition.
Fayulu, backed by two popular opposition leaders barred by the government from running, is seen as more of a threat to Kabila’s interests.
The difference between Tshisekedi and Fayulu in official results was some 684 000 votes. One million voters were barred from the election at the last minute, the electoral commission blaming an Ebola virus outbreak.
Elsewhere, observers reported numerous problems, including malfunctioning voting machines and polling stations that opened hours late.
The presidential inauguration will be on January 22. |