Tshisekedi to bounce back amid polls irregularities

This is despite western governments' call for restraint amid fears of a repeat of violence that has followed past elections.

TUESDAY December 26, 2023

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station at a Bwakya school in Lubumbashi in the southeastern DRC on December 21, 2023. PHOTO | AFP

By Africa News/Aljazeera

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (Céni) on Monday continued to release partial results from the December 20-21 presidential election, with incumbent leader Félix Tshisekedi leading by a wide margin of over 80 per cent of the vote.

The results announced so far relate to 1,876,827 voters, out of a total of nearly 44 million registered in the vast country of around 100 million inhabitants.

At this stage of the vote count, according to the Céni, Félix Tshisekedi, who has been in power since the beginning of 2019 and is running for a second five-year term, has achieved a score of 81.4 pe cent.

He was followed by businessman and former governor of Katanga (southeast) Moïse Katumbi (15.18 per cent) and the other opponent Martin Fayulu (1.2 per cent). The 20, or so, other candidates in the running, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, failed to reach 1 per cent.

The Céni has not established the turnout rate, but has decided to gradually release the results of the presidential elections since Friday. These were held at the same time as the legislative, provincial and local elections, for which the results will be published at a later date.

Voters queue as they wait for casting their ballots at a polling station at Bwakya school in Lubumbashi on December 21, 2023. PHOTO | AFP

The quadruple ballot had been scheduled for one day, the 20th, but was extended due to a number of logistical problems, officially by one day but extending into Christmas in some remote areas.

Opposition candidates have been denouncing the “chaos” and “irregularities” that marred the vote since the very first day.

Some are planning a demonstration for next Wednesday, while others are calling for the elections to be cancelled outright. The Catholic Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, described the elections as a “gigantic mess” during his Christmas mass on Sunday evening.

Like some fifteen embassies before him, the prelate called for “prudence and restraint” in a country with a troubled political history, often marked by violence, whose subsoil is immensely rich in minerals but whose population is predominantly poor.

In addition to the suspicion of opponents since the start of the electoral process, the campaign has been poisoned by the security situation in the east of the DRC, which has seen a peak in tension over the past two years with the resurgence of the M23 rebellion, supported by Rwanda.

The DRC political playing field is accused of being heavily skewed in favour of the ruling party. PHOTO | ISS

The DRC presidential election is facing a crisis of legitimacy amid opposition calls for the vote to be annulled due to alleged fraud.

Five opposition candidates, including Katumbi, said on Saturday the vote should not stoingod, as it had been tainted by “massive fraud.”

Five other opposition leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege and former oil executive Martin Fayulu, had called for a protest march against the result today.

“We will protest against the irregularities noted during the voting operations,” they said in a letter to the governor of Kinshasa, where they plan to rally.

About 44 million people in the mineral-rich Central African nation were registered to vote in the elections to choose the country’s president, national and regional lawmakers, and local councillors.

With elections due this year, analysts feared political motives could be driving the rising violence and tensions. Protesters targeted the UN peacekeeping mission in Goma in July when Monusco was perceived to fail to stop attacks by armed groups. PHOTO | AFP

President Felix Tshisekedi, who had a sizeable lead in preliminary results of voting by diaspora voters, is running for re-election against 18 opposition candidates.

Western governments have called for restraint amid fears of a repeat of the violence that has followed disputed election results in the past.

In a joint statement on Saturday, 12 European embassies and the Canadian embassy called for restraint.

While electoral authorities officially extended the vote only until Thursday, ballots were still being cast on Saturday in remote areas.

The unscheduled extension prompted fierce pushback from opposition candidates, some of whom labelled the move unconstitutional and called for a new election.

Massive delays and bureaucratic chaos marred the DRC vote, with some polling booths being unable to open at all. PHOTO | SEMAFOR

Independent observers have raised concerns about the vote, with the US-based Carter Center describing “serious irregularities” at 21 out of 109 polling stations it visited and noting “a lack of confidence in the process”.

The DRC, which is one of the world’s poorest countries despite holding vast reserves of copper, cobalt and gold, has a history of election-related violence.

At least 19 people were killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the vote.

Tshisekedi’s election as president in 2018 was also marred by accusations of fraud.

At least 34 people have been killed and 59 others wounded in protests related to the vote, according to the UNconstitutional and called for a new electionΩ

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