DR Congo presidential election: Church questions results

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Vote tallies compiled by Democratic Republic of Congo's Catholic Church contradict official presidential results released by the election commission on Thursday, two diplomats said.

Earlier Thursday the country's electoral commission presented a delayed provisional count, naming Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57 per cent of the vote. CENI has come under pressure from the DRC Catholic Church's National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (Conférence Épiscopale Nationale du Congo: CENCO), which mounted its own 40,000-strong electoral observer mission and parallel vote tabulation operation.

"We have also noted that this results have been contested by a part of the opposition", said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.

He is set to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 18 years.

Fayulu can appeal the results to Congo's constitutional court but has not yet indicated whether he will. He was a vocal activist during the two-year delay in Congo's election, insisting it was time to Kabila to go.

An official from the from U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations said Tshisekedi's win might buy some temporary calm but that "the exiled and cheated will rebel", referring to ex-militia and political leaders who are backing Fayulu.

But on Thursday, 10 January, the Electoral Commission announced Mr. Shadary had polled only 4.4 million votes, a long way behind Tshisekedi and businessman Martin Fayulu.

Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has urged the electoral commission to announce the true results as quickly as possible and warned it not to "play with fire, it is very unsafe". Some said they would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections. Stephanie Wolters, analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter ahead of the announcement.

The preliminary results of the December 30 vote had been expected on Sunday, but the commission indefinitely delayed the announcement, to the growing suspicion of many Congolese. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

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If confirmed, Mr Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence in 1960.

Many noted that Fayulu's campaign suffered significantly more harassment than Tshisekedi's, and that the latter's rhetoric towards erstwhile enemies underwent a dramatic change in recent days. And 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. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside.

Congo's government cut internet service the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media.

"Nobody knows how he would be able to cope with the position of president", Patta said of Tshisekedi. "They will not steal victory from Martin Fayulu", he said.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his outspoken father.

It was not immediately clear whether Fayulu would challenge the election results in court.

Tshisekedi inherited the leadership of his UDPS party when his father Etienne Tshisekedi died in 2017.

Pierre Englebert of the African Arguments newsletter said analysis of survey data "suggests that the probability Tshisekedi could have scored 38 percent in a free election is less than 0.0000".

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