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DR Congo’s declared runner-up appeals against presidential poll result

Baz Ratner, Reuters | Martin Fayulu arrives at a political rally in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 11, 2019.

Martin Fayulu, the opposition candidate who was declared the runner-up in last month’s DR Congo's presidential election, appealed Saturday to the country's Constitutional Court to annul the provisional result announced by the election commission.

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Fayulu filed the appeal amidst a heavy police presence around the Constitutional Court in Kinshasa, said FRANCE 24’s Thomas Nicolon reporting from the Congolese capital.

“It was quite impressive to see that many policemen for just one man basically, for just Martin Fayulu. According to the police spokesman in Kinshasa, the reason for the heavy police presence was because the Constitutional Court is located in the heart of Kinshasa and the police didn’t want any gathering of people close to the court and close to so many foreign embassies,” explained Nicolon.

The situation has been tense in the capital since the country’s electoral commission declared another opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, the provisional winner of the December 30 election. Fayulu's campaign says its tallies show that its candidate won a landslide victory with 61 percent of the vote.

<span>>> DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi: From opposition scion to provisional president-elect</span>

Several Congo analysts said it appeared the country’s longstanding leader, Joseph Kabila, made a quiet agreement with Tshisekedi, since Tshisekedi was more malleable than Fayulu.

At a special UN Security Council session on Congo Friday, the powerful CENCO Catholic bishops group, which enjoys widespread credibility across Congo, called on the international body to ask the country’s electoral commission to release the records of vote-counting at the polling stations to allow for verification.

Fayulu’s request filed Saturday with the Constitutional Court calls for the annulment of the provisional result and a recount of the December 30 vote.

Martin Fayulu told me when he arrived [at the Constitutional Court] that this election was the people’s victory and that it cannot be taken away from the people just because of negotiations between the government and Felix Tshisekedi,” explained Nicolon.

‘Surprising’ parliamentary elections results

The appeal was filed hours after the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) declared that Kabila’s ruling coalition won the majority of seats in the long-delayed parliamentary – or national assembly – elections.

Pro-Kabila parties had passed the 250-seat threshold required to secure a majority in the 500-seat national assembly, according to CENI.

More than 15,000 candidates were running in the poll, which determines who will control parliament in DR Congo for the next five years.

Pro-Kabila candidates had secured 288 of the 429 seats so far declared, with 141 going to the opposition.

Reporting from Kinshasa, FRANCE 24’s Nicolon noted that the declared results were “significant because it means that the new president will have very limited power and influence. It is quite surprising, the results of these elections, because it means that the party in power, even though it came third in the presidential election, still has more seats in parliament than any other party".

Stability at stake

The December 30 election came after more than two turbulent years of delays as many Congolese worried that Kabila, in power since 2001, sought a way to stay in office to protect his sprawling assets.

Statements by the international community, including African regional blocs, have not congratulated Tshisekedi, merely taking note of official results and urging against violence.

Congo's 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the vote, though the UN peacekeeping mission has reported at least a dozen deaths in protests in Kwilu province, with authorities noting demonstrations in Kisangani and Mbandaka cities.

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, who was 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, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly 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, the electoral commission said Saturday.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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