The ruling clears the way for the first transfer of power via the ballot box in the cobalt- and copper-rich nation since it gained independence from Belgium almost six decades ago. It will also bring an end to the 18-year rule of President Joseph Kabila, whose tenure was marred by a controversial 2011 reelection, violent crackdowns on opposition supporters and allegationsthat he used his position to expand his family’s business interests.
The Constitutional Court rejected challenges by two unsuccessful candidates in the early hours on Sunday in the capital, Kinshasa. The court “proclaims elected as the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo,” the court’s president, Benoit Lwamba Bindu, said.
Fayulu Claims Victory
Opposition leader Martin Fayulu, runner-up in the Dec. 30 poll, had petitioned the court to order the country’s electoral commission to recount the votes, claiming he won the presidential contest by a wide margin. Tshisekedi secured 39 percent of the votes, according to the commission, while Fayulu obtained 35 percent. Another candidate, Theodore Ngoy, also failed in his attempt to have the elections annulled.
“This is a sovereign decision by the Constitutional Court, which grants us a democratic handover in a country which has suffered a long time,” Vidiye Tshimanga, Tshisekedi’s spokesman, said by phone after the announcement. “Thanks to the Congolese people who mobilized and applied the necessary pressure, President Felix Tshisekedi can represent our population.”
The inauguration is planned for Tuesday, but could be delayed, Tshimanga said.
Fayulu had said Tshisekedi and Kabila struck a secret agreement to deprive him of the presidency — a charge denied by both camps. Kabila’s anointed successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came a distant third in the poll, while Fayulu was backed by Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba, two of Kabila’s biggest adversaries. The outgoing president was barred by the constitution from seeking a third term.
Despite Shadary’s poor performance, Kabila’s ruling coalition, the Common Front for Congo, won a large majority in the National Assembly, posing a challenge to the new president.
Fayulu called on the population to dismiss the results and protest peacefully, and recognize him as the country’s rightful head of state.
Fayulu’s claims that official results were inaccurate are supported by Congo’s Catholic bishops, who’ve said the electoral commission’s tally didn’t reflect the findings of its nationwide observer mission. Leaked troves of near matching voting data, one compiled by the commission from voting machines and the other manually by the Catholic group’s observers, show three times more people voted for Fayulu than Tshisekedi, according to the New York-based Congo Research Group.