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Congo’s election commission cancels 82 candidates in disputed December polling

CONGO’S election commission said it has cancelled votes cast for 82 of the 101,000 legislative candidates in the disputed December general election over alleged fraud and other issues, amid fresh opposition calls for a re-run of the vote.

Those disqualified include contenders for national, provincial and municipal assemblies, the results of which are yet to be published amid the fallout from the December 20 poll that threatens to further destabilise the Democratic Republic of Congo, a top producer of cobalt and Africa’s second-largest country.

A CENI election committee statement on Friday did not address the presidential vote that also took place on December 20, handing President Felix Tshisekedi a landslide victory. The opposition has contested the result amid claims of alleged widespread electoral irregularities reported by their own and independent monitors.

The commission said it had launched an inquiry after the polls to look into “acts of violence, vandalism and sabotage perpetrated by certain ill-intentioned candidates against voters, their staff, their assets and electoral materials.”

The inquiry has led to the invalidation of the 82 legislative candidacies as well as the full annulment of the elections at all levels in two out of 484 constituencies, it said. A further 16 had already been excluded from the election due to local security issues.

Four acting provincial governors and three government ministers were among the 82 excluded.

CENI’s move has not appeased the opposition, many of whom accuse the commission of helping tip the election in Tshisekedi’s favour.

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Presidential challenger Martin Fayulu on Saturday repeated a joint call for the annulment of the vote and a full re-run – a demand the authorities have dismissed.

“We want real elections,” Fayulu told an opposition press conference, calling on the African Union or the Southern African Development Community to “get involved to resolve these problems”.

He asked supporters to show resistance in the face of the alleged fraud but did not call for more street protests outright.

The government and CENI have said the latest election was free and fair despite irregularities, including polling stations failing to open on election day, violent incidents, malfunctioning voting machines and other setbacks that led to an unscheduled extension of voting whose legal basis the main observer mission has questioned.

Tresor Kibangula, a political analyst at Congo’s Ebuteli Research Institute, said it was difficult to see how such irregularities had not also affected the presidential election, “especially considering that all these ballots were conducted on the same day with the same electronic voting device”.

“The central question is … whether the extent of (Tshisekedi’s) proclaimed victory was distorted by these irregularities that were apparently widespread throughout the country,” he said by phone.

By ANGE ADIHE KASONGO

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