DR Congo election results to be announced

Election committee says announcement on presidential poll is imminent, amid concerns that violent protests could erupt.

Congo ballots
Riot police were deployed in Kinshasa as the announcement of the election winner was pushed back on Thursday [AFP]

The election commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is set to announce the winner of the country’s presidential.

An electoral commission official told Al Jazeera that results would be made public on Friday, a day after the announcement was postponed for a second time.

“There is a lot of confusion regarding why results were delayed on Thursday,” Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa, reporting from Kinshasha, said.

“Official reasons are seen as a glaze over the real internal wrangling over results reportedly taking place within the commission itself.”

The commission has said the delay was due to double-checking of figures against tally sheets from polling stations to avoid mistakes. It said that the results would be announced at a mid-morning briefing, but no announcement has been made so far.

Kinshasa remained quiet on Friday morning. Roads were relatively empty with most people still at home or in their townships

“People are frustrated but say they are prepared to wait for the correct results,” Essa said.

President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, appears to be on track for another five-year term, having run against a divided opposition field of 10 candidates in the single-round race.

He led top rival Etienne Tshisekedi by 49 per cent to 33 per cent in partial results announced late on Tuesday, with results from 89 per cent of polling centres counted.

Fraud allegations

Although international observers said the November 28 vote was flawed, they have stopped short of calling it fraudulent.

Most say the irregularities were not widespread enough to have caused a change in outcome.

However, the perception among opposition supporters is that Tshisekedi won.

The conflict-prone country has been on edge since the polls which were preceded by deadly clashes between police and opposition supporters in Kinshasa.

Police have been out in force in the capital and about 20,000 soldiers are on stand-by at military bases with security forces seemingly determined to quash any opposition demonstrations before they could start.

Soldiers from Kabila’s presidential guard were posted at intersections leading to his residence in the Gombe neighbourhood on Friday.

‘Legal route’

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nshole Babula, the secretary-general of Union of Bishops of Congo, said he was worried about the prospect of violence: “We are worried about what might happen when results are released because the opposition says they will protest and we are concerned to see so much of police presence in the city.

“This is why the Catholic church has asked those who have a problem with the results to address their complaints through the legal route.”

Speaking about allegations of fraud, Babula said: “It is difficult to say there is fraud, but we say that CENI [the election commission] must be transparent … the manner in which they are publishing results, it is not possible to verify results.”

Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) has said it would “tolerate” the result delay, but reiterated its criticism of the vote count and called for results to be released for every polling centre.

UDPS secretary general Jacquemin Shabani called the issuing of partial results “biased, opaque and irresponsible”.

Other opposition figures have also reacted sceptically to the repeated delays.

“If it’s designed to serve the credibility of the results, it’s a good thing. If it’s designed to hide something, that’s going to be a problem,” an aide to Francois Nicephore Kakese, one of the 10 opposition candidates, told the AFP news agency.

The country’s Supreme Court will hear election disputes and declare a definitive winner on December 17. Judges at the country’s apex court are, however, seen as being close to Kabila. The president expanded the court’s bench from seven to 27 at the start of the campaign.

Provisional parliamentary results are due in mid-January.

The US-based Human Rights Watch has said at least 18 civilians were killed in election-related violence last month, mostly shot dead by Kabila’s presidential guard as it put down a Tshisekedi rally in Kinshasa.

The International Crisis Group, which has put the country on its “conflict risk alert” list, called on Thursday for a post-election mediation process to be put into place, involving the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union.

“It is impossible for us to go about our normal lives,” said Clementine Luembe, a 40-year old woman who hawks goods on the street in Kinshasa. “We are all worried about the results.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies