Fayulu appeals DR Congo election result

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Lawyers for the runner-up in Democratic Republic of Congo’s disputed election urged the Constitutional Court in impassioned speeches to order a recount of a poll apparently rigged against their candidate.

The December 30 election was meant to see Congo’s first democratic handover of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. Hope for a new era after 18 years of President Joseph Kabila rule faded amid a bitter dispute over an outcome some fear could fan unrest.

Second-place finisher, former Exxon Mobil executive Martin Fayulu, says he won with over 60% of votes based on tallies his camp compiled and that the official winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, struck a deal with Kabila to be declared the victor. Tshisekedi and Kabila deny this.

Hearings on a fraud complaint filed by Fayulu started on Tuesday at the Constitutional Court, which has until Friday to pass judgment.

The court, made up of nine judges, is considered by the opposition to be friendly to Kabila and Fayulu said he is not confident it will rule in his favour.

“We ask for a recount of votes for all candidates, polling station by polling station,” a Fayulu lawyers told the court.

Others said the election commission should not have announced results when votes were still being counted.

Lawyers for Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party said not enough evidence was produced to justify a recount.

Congo’s influential Catholic Church said presidential results were inconsistent with those gathered by its 40,000 election observers. It has not said who it believes won, but three diplomats briefed on its findings said indicated it was Fayulu.

Wary of fallout from a long-running political crisis, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss the election.

Kabila diplomatic adviser, Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, told Reuters he would attend the SADC meeting alongside foreign minister Leonard She Okitundu. It was not clear what action, if any, the bloc might take.

SADC on Sunday called for a recount. South Africa and Zambia backtracked on Monday, although Zambia reiterated its call for a government of national unity.

LEGISLATIVE POLLS IN DOUBT

Tshisekedi’s UDPS party also plans to file a challenge to the results of the legislative election, which took place the same day as the presidential vote.

The presidential candidate of Kabila’s ruling coalition, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, won 24% of the vote the coalition took more than 350 of 500 seats in the National Assembly, compared with about 30 for the UDPS.

That could undermine Tshisekedi’s ability to live up to campaign promises to break with Kabila’s long tenure, which began in 2001 when his father was assassinated.

France, Belgium, the United States and Britain all expressed concern. Perceived criticism from inside Africa could hold greater sway, with approval from regional partners critical for the legitimacy of the next president.

Isolated post-election violence in Congo has many fearing a return to the kind of conflict and upheaval that killed millions since the 1990s and destabilised the region.

Unrest, disorganisation and corruption left many in poverty and dissatisfied with Kabila’s rule.