France & Catholic church challenge DRC election results; country largely calm

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France says DRC runner-up is apparent winner


France on Thursday challenged the outcome of Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election, saying the declared victory of opposition chief Felix Tshisekedi was “not consistent” with the results and that his rival Martin Fayulu appeared to have won.

In remarks made just hours after the provisional results were announced, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tshisekedi’s opposition rival Fayulu, who was declared the runner up, should have been declared the winner.

“It really seems that the declared results … are not consistent with the true results,” he told France’s CNews channel.

“On the face of it, Mr Fayulu was the leader coming out of these elections. ”

The provisional results were announced earlier on Thursday, putting Tshisekedi on course to take over as president, replacing Joseph Kabila who ruled the nation for nearly 18 years.

In a country which has never known a peaceful handover of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, Le Drian called for calm.

“It is crucial to keep calm, to avoid confrontations and to ensure there is clarity about the results which are the opposite of what we expected, of what what projected,” he added.

Catholic Church challenges surprise election result

By Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo’s powerful Catholic church challenged the surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi in the presidential election on Thursday, saying official results do not match the outcome compiled by its 40,000 observers at all polling stations across the troubled country.

The church refused to name its “clear winner,” but diplomats briefed on its findings said opposition leader Martin Fayulu won easily and that other election observer mission found similar results.

Fayulu alleges that President Joseph Kabila engineered a backroom deal with the largely untested Tshisekedi to thwart anti-corruption efforts in a country with staggering mineral wealth.

An outspoken campaigner against Congo’s widespread graft — it ranked 161th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest index — Fayulu denounced the official vote results as “rigged.” He called on people to “rise as one man to protect victory.”

But the country remained largely calm as many Congolese appeared to accept the country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power. Tshisekedi’s supporters with Congo’s most prominent opposition group took to the streets in jubilation.

It was not immediately clear whether Fayulu would challenge the election results in court. Congo’s constitutional court has 14 days to validate them.

Careful statements by the international community did not congratulate Tshisekedi, merely taking note of official results and urging peace and stability in a country with little of it. Observers appeared to be watching to see how Fayulu’s supporters reacted.

The delayed results, 10 days after the Dec. 30 vote, came after international pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people, with the United States threatening sanctions.

The largely peaceful election was marred by the malfunctioning of many voting machines that Congo used for the first time. Dozens of polling centres opened hours late as materials went missing.

In a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country’s 40 million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

Defiantly, tens of thousands of voters held their own unofficial ballot on election day, and Fayulu won easily. That community, Beni, was calm on Thursday.