THE European Union said the bloc has “taken note” of the surprise result of DR Congo’s controversial presidential election, as well as objections by runner-up Martin Fayulu that the outcome amounted to a “coup,” as it urged citizens to steer clear of violence.
Many Congolese struggled to vote in the much-awaited election due to a deadly Ebola virus outbreak – the second-biggest ever recorded – as well as an armed conflict and logistical problems. Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman of the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, acknowledged the result, but said the bloc was awaiting clarification from international observers. Mrs Kocijancic said: “We are calling on all political actors in DR Congo to refrain from any act of violence.
“We have taken note of the provisional result and of the fact it has been contested by the opposition. The final result must be in line with the choice of the Congolese people.”
The country’s electoral commission on Thursday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the messy presidential election, but his victory was immediately dismissed by Mr Fayulu as an “electoral coup”.
Election chief Corneille Nangaa declared Mr Tshisekedi the winner with 38.57 per cent of the vote, narrowly ahead of Mr Fayulu with 34.8 per cent. The new president is to replace Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the copper-rich central African nation for almost 18 years.
Pre-election polls had predicted a landslide win for Mr Fayulu, who had the support of influential exiled politicians and former militia leaders.
The result has also been questioned by the powerful Catholic church, further clouding the vote’s legitimacy and jeopardising hopes of peace.
Congo’s Catholic Church is widely venerated, and is believed to have accurate election data collected by a 40,000-strong team of observers who tallied results displayed at individual polling stations.
The results from the presidential election as published by CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observance mission from polling stations and vote counts,” the National Episcopal Conference of Congo observers said in a statement.
Fayulu supporters are saying the result was rigged as part of a pact to protect key figures from the outgoing Kabila administration.
They also claim Mr Kabila is planning to rule from the shadows through his preferred candidate.
Mr Kabila says he has no intention of quitting politics and may run again in 2023, when he will no longer be barred by term limits.
But the government has said the elections were free and fair.
The Catholic Church and Mr Fayulu are not the only ones to express doubt over the result.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday demanded “clarity” on results which he said were “the opposite to what we expected”.
“The Catholic Church of Congo did its tally and announced completely different results,” he told the French television channel Cnews.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter that he was “very concerned about discrepancies” in the results and that the UN Security Council would discuss it.
Very concerned about discrepancies in provisional #DRC election results. Crucial that Congolese people’s democratic will is respected. Data and methodology MUST be examined.
“Pleased Security Council will discuss tomorrow.”
Washington said it had taken “note” of the result, but added it “awaits clarification of questions which have been raised regarding the electoral count”.
DR Congo has never before seen a democratic transfer of power. Mr Kabila had been due to leave office two years ago, but managed to cling on to power, sparking a bitter political crisis marked by nationwide protests that were brutally repressed by the authorities, leaving dozens of people dead.
Congolese fear that a row over the result could restart a cycle of brutality in a country where armed conflict causing hunger and disease has killed millions of people since the 1990s.
At least four people were reported killed in protests in one eastern city on Thursday, although much of the rest of the country appeared calm.
In addition, the country is currently tackling the second-biggest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. Some 385 people have died of the disease since the epidemic began in August, according to health officials.
Ebola, which is highly infectious, causes haemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.