By Enyichukwu Enemanna
At least five opposition candidates, including former provincial Governor Moise Katumbi, on Saturday called for the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) presidential election to be annulled, alleging that the process has been tainted by “massive fraud.”
Also, five other opposition leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege and former oil executive Martin Fayulu, have called for a protest march against the result next Wednesday, breeding the election for a crisis of legitimacy.
“We will protest against the irregularities noted during the voting operations,” they said in a letter to the governor of Kinshasa, where they plan to rally.
About 44 million people in the mineral-rich Central African nation were registered to vote in the elections to decide the country’s President, national and regional parliamentarians as well as local councillors.
Preliminary results of voting by diaspora voters indicate that the incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi is in a comfortable lead.
He is running for re-election against 18 opposition candidates.
Arising from fears of a repeat of violent clashes that have characterized disputed election results in the past, western governments have called for restraint.
In a joint statement on Saturday, 12 European embassies and the Canadian embassy called for restraint.
“As the vote counting continues, we urge all stakeholders, especially political actors, candidates and their supporters, to exercise restraint, allow the process to unfold, and raise their concerns peacefully,” the embassies said.
The vote has been marred by accusations of corruption and chaotic organisation since it kicked off on Wednesday, with authorities extending the poll into Thursday after some polling stations failed to open and some voters could not find their names on registers.
While electoral authorities officially extended the vote only until Thursday, ballots were still being cast on Saturday in remote areas.
The unscheduled extension prompted fierce criticism from opposition candidates, some of whom labelled the move unconstitutional and called for a new election.
Independent observers have raised concerns about the vote, with the United States-based Carter Center describing “serious irregularities” at 21 out of 109 polling stations it visited and noting “a lack of confidence in the process”.