Congo elec­tion re­sults chal­lenged

Run­ner-up Martin Fayulu de­mands re­count in court chal­lenge ob­servers fear could lead to vi­o­lence

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - WORLD -

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. |

MARTIN FAYULU

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