The powerful and influential Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has rejected the provisional electoral outcome of the DRC presidential elections which named opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner.
The Church said his win did not reflect the data of the 40,000 observers it had stationed at polling stations across the country, the East African reported.
This is just the latest criticism of the DRC electoral outcome with some analysts questioning whether former president Joseph Kabila made a secret deal with Tshisekedi.
Father Donatien Nshole, spokesperson for CENCO, which represents the country’s Catholic bishops, said: “We see that the result of the presidential election as published by CENI (the DRC’s Independent National Election Commission) does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres.”
CENI results show that Tshisekedi secured 38.57% of the vote, ahead of Martin Fayulu with 34.8%. Fayula, a former oil executive, had been tipped as the favourite to win in the few pre-election opinion polls.
Ramazani Shadary, the handpicked successor to former president Joseph Kabila, who has been in power for 18 years, only came third.
The church’s assertion followed a statement CENCO made last week when it said it already knew who had won the vote but wouldn’t publish the results “in keeping with truth and justice”.
Nshole’s statement followed earlier criticism of the electoral outcome by both France and Belgium.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday morning that opposition leader Martin Fayulu should have won instead of Tshisekedi, following Wednesday’s announcement of provisional results in the wake of the December 30 elections.
Le Drian told France’s CNews that the declared outcome of the elections was “not consistent” with the actual results.
Earlier Thursday Fayulu also expressed alarm at the results when he said an “electoral coup” had taken place.
“These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box,” Fayulu told Radio France International. “It’s a real electoral coup, it’s incomprehensible.”
Pierre Englebert, a professor of African Politics at Pomona College and non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre, said the election results were “implausible” in an article in the African Arguments newsletter.
“Broadly reliable polling data by Congo’s BERCI and France’s Ipsos for the Congo Research Group (CRG) in December and actual voting count data by some 40,000 observers from the Catholic Episcopal Commission (CENCO) point instead to a solid and statistically robust victory by Fayulu,” Englebert said.
“CRG’s data suggests that the probability Tshisekedi could have scored 38% in a free election is less than 0.0000. There is a 95% chance his real numbers would be somewhere between 21.3% and 25%.”
So why would the polls be deliberately skewed?
Englebert said there could have been a collaboration between Kabila, who had previously repeatedly refused to step down and hold elections despite his official term in office ending in 2016, and Tshisekedi.
“One possibility for the result is that once the regime saw the catastrophic mistake Kabila had made by nominating Shadary, it scrambled to come up with a Plan B. Enter Tshisekedi and his accomplice, Vital Kamerhe, a former Kabila ally,” Englebert explained.
Kabila’s last two prime ministers both came from Tshisekedi’s UDPS party. Tshisekedi himself has wavered at times in his opposition to the regime and is far from having his late father’s intransigence.
Confirmation of the official results is due next Tuesday, three days before the new president is officially sworn in and it remains uncertain following the backlash and a possible challenge to the provisional results who will take office.