As Congo delays election results, people's suspicions rise

A Congolese citizen casting his ballot using an electronic voting machine

A Congolese citizen casting his ballot using an electronic voting machine

Opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi casting his ballot in Kinshasa.

Analysts are now looking to the verdict of the influential body representing Congo's Catholic bishops that said January 3 that results gathered at polling stations on election day by its 40,000-strong observation mission showed which candidate had won, without naming the person.

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi has won the long-awaited presidential poll in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the electoral commission said Thursday, paving the way for the country's first handover of power in 18 years.

The Catholic Church, who had the largest number of election observers deployed, has warned they will reject any results they believe to be fraudulent. Barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, Kabila handpicked Shadary, a loyalist former interior minister, to run for the ruling Common Front for Congo coalition, fueling suspicions the current head of state meant to retain considerable influence over his preferred successor.

Runner-up Fayulu dismissed the results, however, claiming that there had been an "electoral coup".

The opposition was weakened by internal arguments and the exclusion by the electoral commission of two political heavyweights: Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former warlord, and Moïse Katumbi, a popular tycoon.

Congo's powerful Catholic Church has said it found a clear victor from data compiled by its 40,000 observers deployed to all polling stations. "(.) The Congolese people will never accept that his victory be stolen". Speculation swirled this week that Kabila's government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a ruling party win.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Kinshasa that the results could lead to protests and allegations of rigging. Shadary received more than 4 million votes. Last week the bishops said their observations showed a clear victor - although they did not name Martin Fayulu, the other opposition frontrunner - as that candidate.

Already delayed by two years, the announcement of results was postponed by a further week to allow more time to overcome logistical challenges in a country of 80 million inhabitants spread over an area the size of western Europe with nearly no paved roads.

The delay is to "fudge the results", Fayulu told the AP.

On Tuesday, Mr Fayulu warned election officials not to "disguise the truth" as tensions continued to mount over the delayed result.

Hours before the results were released, the Catholic organization urged CENI to honor "its duty to publish only results from the ballot boxes".

Riot police were deployed in front of the commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa and along the city's main boulevard, as Congo braced for possible violence amid accusations of vote fraud and suspicions that the government was negotiating a power-sharing deal with one opposition candidate.

Felix Tshisekedi, leader of Congolese main opposition the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, attends a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 23, 2018.

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