/ 13 January 2019

DRC presidential runner-up asks court to cancel result

Martin Fayulu
Martin Fayulu (Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images)

The runner-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election, Martin Fayulu, 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 to replace long-term President Joseph Kabila.

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

The move came as the pro-Kabila FCC coalition announced it had won a majority in legislative elections, which took place at the same time as last month’s presidential poll.

Supporters of the outgoing president won nearly 350 seats in the 500-seat National Assembly, according to Communications Minister Lambert Mende.

About 130 seats went to opposition lawmakers, he said.

The developments were the latest twist in a long-running political crisis which erupted two years ago when 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 in an election pitting two opposition candidates, Fayulu and Tshisekedi, against Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Opinion polls had indicated Fayulu was the clear favourite, although most observers predicted a result rigged in favour of Shadary. But the shock result declared Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57%, while Fayulu came second with 34.8%.

The court now has eight days to consider the request.

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

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

‘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.

DRC’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.

In the southeastern city of Kasenga, some 120 supporters of Fayulu were arrested on Saturday, according to civil society sources.

Further west in the mining town of Kolwezi, clashes broke out between Fayulu and Tshisekedi supporters that resulted in a number of injuries and arrests, Okapi radio reported.

Kabila MPs win parliament

If the legislative result is confirmed, the win for pro-Kabila lawmakers will put them in control of parliament for the next five years.

Provisional results released earlier by the elections committee had also indicated that the pro-Kabila FCC coalition had secured a majority, but by a fewer number of seats.

It means the next prime minister will be chosen from among forces loyal to Kabila.

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.

READ MORE: Big-man politics again blots out the Congolese

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 DRC’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.

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.

READ MORE: The DRC’s blood-soaked history

© Agence France-Presse