The Democratic republic of the Congo officially has a new leader. Felix Tshisekedi, son of long time opposition candidate Étienne Tshisekedi, has taken the helm from Joseph Kabila in a contested election.
Whether this is democracy in action or damage mitigation by the old regime is yet to be seen. Tshisekedi was not the favourite to win the election, and church observers sent out to monitor ballot counting had leaked a victory for Martin Fayulu to western media sources. The results seem especially suspicious considering current president Joseph Kabila’s party won only 24% of the presidential election vote, yet captured 70 percent of the vote in the national and provincial legislatures.
The situation may not be stable yet. Despite the supreme court throwing out two challenges calling for a recount, Martin Fayulu has declared himself president. He commented “The constitutional court has just confirmed that it serves a dictatorial regime ... by validating false results, (and enabling) a constitutional coup d’etat”. He has called for his supporters to peacefully protest the court's decision.
The international community is divided. The African Union had asked the constitutional court to delay it’s ruling on the election and following the rejection of this request, has delayed a visit to the DRC. Meanwhile, the presidents of Kenya and South Africa have sent their congratulations to Tshisekedi with calls to “to respect the decision of the constitutional court”.
A local member of the Nyantende Foundation, on the ground during the election, has commented that while Fayulu seems honest in his complaints about the election, the difference in the vote count by the election committee is simply too large for Fayulu to have legitimately won the election. The election committee reports that Fayulu lost the election with 34.7% to Tshisekedi 38.5%. This is contrast with the tally from the Catholic Church which has Fayulu winning with 62% of the vote.
The future is uncertain. Tshisekedi’s inauguration has been delayed and police have shut down a demonstration made by Fayulu supporters. Whatever the result, it seems as though the DRC hope for a free and fair election have been quashed again.
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