DR Congo presidential runner-up asks court to cancel result

DR Congo presidential runner-up asks court to cancel result

Kinshasa (AFP) – Martin Fayulu, who came second in DR Congo’s presidential election, has appealed to the Constitutional Court to annul the provisional result which awarded victory to his opposition rival Felix Tshisekedi, his lawyer said Saturday.

The request was filed on Friday ahead of a 48-hour deadline for any appeals against the shock result which was announced before dawn on Thursday. 

“The request seeks the annulment of the result declaring Felix Tshisekedi president,” Toussaint Ekombe told reporters outside the court.

It was the latest twist in a long-running political crisis which erupted two years ago when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office, sparking massive protests which were brutally repressed. 

On December 30, after repeated delays, voters finally went to the polls to choose his successor in an election pitting two opposition candidates, Fayulu and Tshisekedi, against Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. 

Opinion polls had flagged Fayulu as the clear favourite, although most observers predicted a result rigged in favour of Shadary. But the results declared Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57 percent, while Fayulu came second with 34.8 percent. 

The court now has eight days to consider the request.

“I got more than 61 percent of the vote compared with the others, who each got 18 percent,” Fayulu told AFP. 

“Between them, they didn’t get more than 40 percent.”

– ‘Broke the law’ –

At stake is political stewardship of the notoriously unstable central African nation, which has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Fayulu has denounced the result as an “electoral coup” engineered by Kabila in which Tshisekedi was “totally complicit”. 

Explaining the appeal, the 62-year-old said election chief Corneille Nangaa had “broken electoral law” and that only a recount would establish the truth of what happened at the ballot box. 

On Friday, the former oil executive said he didn’t expect the result to be annulled but that the court would approve a recount. 

DR Congo’s powerful Roman Catholic church also said the election board’s provisional result “does not correspond” with data collected from polling stations by its 40,000 election monitors. 

Ahead of the news conference, police roughly dispersed a crowd of around 150 Fayulu supporters who had gathered near the court, and also saw off others who had rallied near his Kinshasa home. 

– Kabila MPs win parliament –

Hours earlier, the election committee unveiled the results of legislative elections, which also took place on December 30, with supporters of the outgoing president winning a majority in the 500-seat National Assembly.

Provisional results indicated candidates from the pro-Kabila FCC coalition secured up to 288 of the 485 seats so far declared, putting them in control of parliament for the next five years. Another 141 seats went to the opposition.

International observers have been closely watching developments in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, which covers an area equivalent to that of western Europe, with reactions to the election outcome guarded. 

Most leaders called for any disagreements to be resolved peacefully in statements that pointedly lacked any congratulations for Tshisekedi, with the dispute over the results playing out in the UN Security Council on Friday. 

Addressing the Council by video conference, election chief Nangaa pleaded for “the new authorities to be supported by the international community”.

But Bishop Marcel Utembi, head of CENCO, which represents DR Congo’s Catholic bishops, urged the Security Council to ask the election committee to release data on the counting at polling stations to allow for verification.

– Tshisekedi-Kabila deal? –

Analysts said it was likely Kabila had struck a deal with the 55-year-old opposition chief to avoid a violent backlash and the international condemnation that would have followed if Shadary had been declared winner. 

In turn, Kabila — who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2001 — was likely to seek immunity from prosecution and protection for his family’s business assets.

Thursday’s pre-dawn announcement brought thousands of Tshisekedi supporters onto the streets in celebration, while others who had backed Fayulu came out to protest.

On Friday, the authorities imposed an overnight curfew in Kikwit, a Fayulu stronghold east of Kinshasa, where five civilians had died during a protest on Thursday, the mayor told AFP. 

Another person also died during a protest in the eastern city of Goma, police said. 

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