DRC court to examine election appeal from Tuesday

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Felix Tshisekedi (File: AFP)
Felix Tshisekedi (File: AFP)

Democratic Republic of Congo's Constitutional Court said it would start hearing on Tuesday an appeal against presidential election results that gave victory to opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.

"The Constitutional Court will start examining the appeal by Martin Fayulu tomorrow, from 09:30 " press officer Baudouin Mwehu told AFP on Monday.

Fayulu, likewise from the opposition, was declared runner-up in the December 30 poll to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, in power for the last 18 years.

He says the results released last Thursday were an "electoral coup" that, he alleges, was forged in backroom dealings between Tshisekedi and Kabila.

"What we are expecting from the Constitutional Court is for the truth of the ballot box to be restored," said Albert Fabrice Puela, one of Fayulu's lawyers.

"The result announced by CENI is an abuse," he told AFP, referring to the Independent National Election Commission, which supervised the election.

Tshisekedi was credited with 38.57% of the vote, against 34.8% for Fayulu, according to the provisional results.

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the candidate backed by Kabila, came a distant third with 23.8 percent.

In the few opinion polls conducted before the vote, Fayulu had been tipped as clear favourite. He claims he garnered 61% of the ballot.

Spotlight on court

Fayulu filed his appeal on Friday. The nine-member court has a week to study the request before giving its ruling, with the new president scheduled to be sworn in on January 22, according to Corneille Nangaa, head of CENI.

In the meantime, voices suggesting a recount have risen from abroad.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, called on Sunday for a unity government.

The SADC also urged a recount to "provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers."

It sounded a somewhat softer tone on Monday, stressing that any such consideration "should be left to the sovereign internal procedures" of the DRC.

Also Monday, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders of Belgium - the Democratic Republic of Congo's former colonial power - said a recount was a good idea.

"Obviously, having transparency is always the first step, and then you have to ask yourself if, on the basis of what has been published, one should start a recount process," he told the public broadcaster RTBF.

Tshisekedi's spokesperson, Vidiye Tshimanga, said his party, the UDPS, "will accept a recount if it is a decision by the Constitutional Court."

"However, we are against a recount if it is imposed by foreign countries," he told a press conference.

Constitutional law expert Sylvain-Patrick Lumu Mbaya said that a recount was certainly one of the options available to the court.

"The court may have doubts (about the result), and if so, it can take exceptional measures, including a recount," he said.

However, suspicions about the court's impartiality run deep in a country where Kabila's influence is widespread.

Last April, two judges who were considered to be the most independent quit. As one of the successors, Kabila named a former legal advisor, Norbert Nkulu Kilombo.

Troubled past

The DRC's political crisis erupted two years ago when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office, sparking protests which were brutally repressed.

The vast, unstable country has never had a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

It became a battlefield for two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the last two presidential elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marked by bloody clashes.

The influential Roman Catholic Church, which says it deployed 40,000 observers to monitor the poll, has also dismissed the official outcome as not reflecting the true result.

But it has held back from saying who, in its opinion, was the victor.

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