Congo Election Results Delayed Past Sunday Deadline: Reuters

(Bloomberg) -- Preliminary results from Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election will be delayed beyond Sunday’s deadline, Reuters reported, citing the head of the electoral commission.

CENI, as the commission is known, had received only 47 percent of vote tally sheets as of Saturday, the report said. It wasn’t clear when the results would be ready.

Martin Fayulu, the head of a coalition of opposition leaders known as Lamuka, had urged the authorities to avoid delaying the result’s announcement amid growing criticism of how the ballot was handled.

Congo Election Results Delayed Past Sunday Deadline: Reuters

Congolese went to the polls Dec. 30 to find a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who’s ruled since 2001, in an election that was already two years overdue. The central African nation hasn’t had a democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium almost five decades ago.

The U.S. State Department this week criticized the commission for denying accreditation to several foreign election observers and media to monitor the election. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, said in a report Saturday the vote was significantly marred by “widespread irregularities, voter suppression and violence.”

Consequences

CENI should “quickly announce the results” as they were recorded at the country’s almost 75,000 polling stations, Pierre Lumbi, Fayulu’s campaign director, told reporters in the capital, Kinshasa.

Congo Election Results Delayed Past Sunday Deadline: Reuters

“The Lamuka coalition warns CENI against any attempt to modify the results which were posted on the polling stations and will hold it responsible for all consequences which would result from this situation,” Lumbi said.

The body that represents Congo’s Catholic bishops said on Thursday the results collected on election day by its 40,000-strong observer mission showed there was a clear winner, without identifying the person. The election is a three-way contest between Kabila’s protege, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and two main opposition candidates -- Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

The government has tried to limit speculation about the outcome of the election by cutting off the internet the day after the vote and warning media that only the National Independent Electoral Commission is allowed to publish results. CENI was scheduled to publish the results Sunday, but has said it may not make that deadline.

Congo Election Results Delayed Past Sunday Deadline: Reuters

The Catholic organization, known as CENCO, determined that Fayulu won the election, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, a senior adviser to Kabila, and an unidentified Western official. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the article was part of “neo-colonialist and imperialist escapades” by Western interests.

‘Imperialist Order’

“It’s a flagrant attempt to capture the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an attempt to control the process in order to capture and orient it,” Mende said by phone on Saturday. “They have tried to impose on us the people who want to come to perpetuate the imperialist order, but we take note of this attempts and we’ll make sure it fails.”

Mende, who’s also a spokesman for Shadary’s campaign, said the Catholic Church has “always played the game here in favor of the colonialists and then the neo-colonialists.” Shadary’s coalition is awaiting CENI’s announcement of the official results as prescribed by the constitution and Congolese law, he said.

Congo Election Results Delayed Past Sunday Deadline: Reuters

The U.S. deployed 80 troops with combat equipment and supported by military aircraft to nearby Gabon to support U.S. Embassy staff and citizens in Kinshasa in case violent demonstrations erupt, President Donald Trump said in a letter to congressional leaders on Friday. Additional forces may be deployed if necessary, he said.

African observers have endorsed the vote.

The elections “were relatively well managed and the electoral process unfolded relatively well,” the observer mission of the Southern African Development Community said in a preliminary report Wednesday. A team from the African Union said the vote took place “overall in a peaceful and serene climate.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.