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DRC president declared election winner as opposition cries foul

DRC president declared election winner as opposition cries foul

The president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, has won a second term in office with a landslide victory, according to provisional results, in a vote opposition leaders have dismissed as a “sham”.

Provisional results from the single-round presidential ballot, declared on Sunday by the country’s electoral commission, Ceni, showed Tshisekedi had won 73% of the vote.

Moise Katumbi – a wealthy businessman, football club owner and former provincial governor – was the runner-up with about 18%.

The DRC’s constitutional court is expected to confirm the provisional results on 10 January.

Tshisekedi, 60, first came to power in January 2019 after a disputed election that many observers said he had in fact lost.

Martin Fayulu – who claims he was robbed of the last presidential election in 2018 – also contested this year’s poll but in the end won about 5% of the votes.

The 20 remaining candidates, including Denis Mukwege, who won a Nobel peace prize for his work with female victims of wartime sexual violence, were either under, or hovering around, 1%.

On Sunday, nine opposition candidates, including Mukwege, Fayulu and Katumbi – signed a declaration rejecting what they termed a “sham” election and called for a rerun. Fayulu, addressing reporters in the capital, Kinshasa said the results “are a masquerade. This must not be accepted.”

Trésor Kibangula, a political analyst at the Ebuteli research institute who spoke to AFP before the full provisional results were released, said Tshisekedi’s vote tally “is way beyond all expectations”.

“His dynamic campaign worked”, but his scores in some regions “raise questions about the impact of the irregularities that were observed”, he added.

Known by the nickname “Fatshi” – an abbreviation of his name – Tshisekedi led the DRC through the Covid pandemic and the ongoing M23 rebellion in the mineral-rich east.

The success of his first term in office is often viewed as mixed: the economy has grown but inflation is soaring and high unemployment remains the norm.

During his re-election campaign, Tshisekedi trumpeted his elimination of primary-school fees and promised to create millions of new jobs. He also regularly accused opposition figures of working for foreign interests.

Forty-four million people out of the country’s 100 million inhabitants were registered to vote on 20 December for president, as well as for national and regional lawmakers and municipal councillors.

Voting was officially extended by a day to account for problems, and continued for days afterwards in remote areas, according to observers.

One Catholic-Protestant observation mission said it “documented numerous cases of irregularities susceptible to have affected the integrity of the vote”.

About 15 embassies have called for “restraint” in the poor but mineral-rich country where post-election tensions have been common.

Authorities say they have taken steps to prevent unrest, especially in the mining areas of the southeast that are Katumbi’s stronghold. They also stress that any electoral disputes must be presented to the constitutional court. However, opposition leaders say they have no confidence in the court or Ceni, which they argue is subservient to the government.

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