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Congo opposition leader Martin Fayulu to challenge presidential election result

Congolese opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu has denounced what his supporters called "the people's stolen victory". Picture by Jerome Delay, Associated Press.
Mathilde Boussion, Associated Press

Congo opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has said he will file a court challenge to the presidential election results, while his coalition said he received 61 per cent of the vote according to the findings of the influential Catholic Church's election observers.

Mr Fayulu spoke to hundreds of supporters who gathered in the capital Kinshasa to denounce what they called "the people's stolen victory".

A heavy police presence was on hand. A businessman and vocal campaigner against Congo's widespread corruption, Mr Fayulu accuses outgoing President Joseph Kabila of making a backroom deal with the surprise declared winner, largely untested opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.

The Catholic Church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has said its 40,000 election observers found a different winner from the official results but it has not given details.

Mr Fayulu's coalition said the church's findings showed Mr Tshisekedi received just 18 per cent of the vote, just ahead of ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Mr Fayulu urged Congo's electoral commission to publish detailed results, polling station by polling station, and said he would file his court challenge on Saturday morning. He blew kisses to the crowd.

"Those who have been silly enough to publish false results, we will challenge them," he said.

Congolese face the extraordinary situation of an election allegedly rigged in favour of the opposition after Mr Kabila's preferred candidate, Mr Shadary, did poorly in the polls. Mr Fayulu's coalition said Mr Shadary received just 18 per cent of the vote.

The electoral commission early on Thursday announced that Mr Tshisekedi had won with 38 per cent of the vote while Mr Fayulu got 34 per cent.

"Change cannot be negotiated behind closed doors and power only comes from the ballot, there is no other way," said Fayulu supporter Jean Otaba (28). "You can see there is no massive celebration despite the announcement. That's because it is not the truth."

This could be Congo's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960, but observers have warned that a court challenge could spin the long-troubled country into chaos.

Some Fayulu supporters have worried that the constitutional court could invalidate the election results, keeping Mr Kabila in power until a new vote.

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