Congo election commission cancels 82 candidates over fraud in December polls

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The Congolese election commission said it had cancelled votes cast for 82 out of 101,000 candidates in legislative and local polls held in December for their involvement in alleged fraud and other issues that disrupted the general election.

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

A statement late on Friday from the CENI election committee did not address the presidential vote that took place on the same day. This handed President Felix Tshisekedi a landslide victory last Sunday, but the opposition has contested the result over 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.

The CENI’s move is unlikely to appease the opposition, many of whom accuse the commission of helping tip the election in Tshisekedi’s favour and reject its claim that incidents of fraud and other malpractice were limited and carried out by a few rogue actors.

The main opposition presidential challengers have called on supporters to protest. Electoral disputes often fuel unrest in Congo, whose development has been hampered by decades of authoritarian rule, corruption, and a prolonged security crisis in eastern provinces.

The CENI and the government have said the latest election was free and fair despite the irregularities. These included 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, political analyst at Congo’s Ebuteli research institute, said it was difficult to see how the irregularities sanctioned by the CENI in its latest statement 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.



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