Democratic Republic of Congo presidential runner-up Martin Fayulu has challenged the outcome of the country’s election in court, claiming he defeated opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi by a wide margin.
Fayulu’s opposition coalition said Friday he captured 61 percent of the vote, citing figures from the Catholic Church, which placed 40,000 election observers across the Central African country. The coalition said Tshisekedi won 18 percent of the vote. By law, only the electoral commission can announce election results in Congo.
Fayulu, who has members of the Republican Guard deployed outside his home, called for a manual recount of the election.
On Thursday, the United States demanded the Democratic Republic of Congo release “accurate” election results and warned of sanctions against anyone who tries to undermine Congo’s democracy.
Election commission head Corneille Nangaa told reporters in Kinshasa that results of the Dec. 30 presidential vote may be delayed because of a slow vote-counting process.
Nangaa said only about 20 percent of ballots have been collected from polling stations across the vast central African country, which lacks a well-developed road network. He also said the system of manually collecting and compiling vote totals is not helping the process.
The electoral commission had planned to use the internet to collect vote totals. But it gave up those plans after the opposition alleged the system was vulnerable to fraud.
Election results are due to be published by Sunday, with the new president set to be inaugurated on Jan. 15.
Pre-election polls indicated that Fayulu was the favorite to replace outgoing President Joseph Kabila. Kabila backed another candidate, his former interior minister, Emmanuel Shadary.
Congo has never seen a peaceful transfer of power since winning independence from Belgium in 1960.
Last week’s election was originally scheduled for 2016 but was delayed as Kabila stayed in office past the end of his mandate, sparking protests that were crushed by security forces, leaving dozens dead.