Congo Constitutional Court begins election appeal hearing

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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo's Constitutional Court on Tuesday began hearing an appeal against the presidential election results lodged by opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who claimed he lost because of massive electoral fraud.

Fayulu demanded a recount of the Dec. 30 vote, claiming the electoral commission published results wildly different from those obtained at polling stations. The appeal also says the results were published before the end of the compilation operations across the country.

Fayulu's legal team hopes evidence collected from the polling stations in various ways will convince the constitutional court to order a recount.

The observation missions deployed by the Catholic Church and civic organization Symocel have also been asked to testify on behalf of Fayulu's team. According to results compiled by influential Catholic Church's 40,000 election observers, Fayulu won the presidential race with 61 percent of the vote.

The court must rule on the appeal by Saturday.

Fayulu alleges that the results were falsified to declare Tshisekedi the winner, although he came in a distant second place according to the Catholic Church's results.

Congo's electoral commission has said Tshisekedi won 38 percent of the vote and Fayulu 34 percent.

"The CENI (electoral commission) has published results other than those posted in front of polling stations, so we are asking for a recount," said Fayulu's lawyer Ekombe Mpetshi.

Electoral Commission executive secretary Rossard Malonga, however, said results could not be cancelled.

Two sets of leaked data show that Fayulu won the Congolese election by a landslide majority, according to an investigation published Tuesday by Radio France International and other media working with the Congo Research Group, a New York University-affiliated research body.

Thousands of pages of data were analyzed by RFI, French TV5 and the Financial Times. In the first set of data, which is attributed to the electoral commission and represents 86 percent of the votes, Fayulu won 59.4 percent of the vote while Tshisekedi obtained 19 percent.

The second set of data comes from the 40,000 observers deployed by the Catholic Church's CENCO group and represents 43 percent of the votes. In this sample, Fayulu won 62.8 percent of the votes. In this sample as well as in data attributed to the electoral commission, Tshisekedi and the ruling party candidate Emmanuel Shadary each won less than 20 percent of the votes.

The origin of the data attributed to the electoral commission is not clear. According to the journalists the information was leaked from a central database of the electoral commission and given to Fayulu's allies.

According to RFI, the 2,064 pages of results coming from more than 49,000 voting sites have also been leaked through citizen movements which explain they come from a "whistleblower" eager to denounce an "electoral robbery."

There is a "near perfect correlation" between the two sets of information from the Catholic Church observers and those attributed to the electoral commission, said RFI.

Regional groups representing neighboring countries are suggesting the formation of a government of national unity and a possible recount of votes to avoid instability, putting new pressure on the government of outgoing President Joseph Kabila to find a peaceful and transparent solution to a growing electoral crisis in one of Africa's largest and most mineral-rich nations.

Congo's 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the Dec. 30 vote but at least a dozen people have been killed in protests.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council released a statement saying it took note of the provisional results of Congo's presidential and provisional elections. It also took note of the disputes lodged before the constitutional court and "encouraged all stakeholders to preserve the generally peaceful climate of the elections, and to take up any reservations or disputes through the proper mechanisms and processes provided for in the constitution of the DRC and its electoral law."


Boussion reported from Johannesburg.

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Saleh Mwanamilongo and Mathilde Boussion


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