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Congo’s Presidential Election’s Result Spark Protests, Anger

Analyst Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group predicts Fayulu's supporters will not take the official result lying down.

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Congo, Election
Residents celebrate in Kinshasa, Jan. 10, 2019, after learning that opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the winner of the elections. VOA

Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked surprise and outrage by naming opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the nation’s presidential election, after counting delays and a poll marred by irregularities, rampant suspicions and chaos.

Corneille Nangaa, head of the Independent National Election Commission, or CENI, said early Thursday that Tshisekedi had won with more than 7 million votes, or 38.5 percent of the total vote.

But the man predicted to win by pre-election surveys — political newcomer and opposition coalition candidate Martin Fayulu — immediately cried foul. Fayulu has previously accused the electoral commission, which is known to be loyal to longtime President Joseph Kabila, of playing favorites.

“This attitude from the electoral commission raises various legitimate suspicions that fuel political tension throughout the country,” Fayulu said.

 

Congo, Elections
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the DRC’s main opposition party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) who has been declared the winner of the presidential elections, gestures to his supporters in Kinshasa, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

 

The influential Catholic Church, which sent more than 40,000 observers to the polls, also disputed the official result, saying, “the results of the presidential election as published by the CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from the polling and counting stations.”

Late entry, surprise winner

Tshisekedi’s victory comes as something of a surprise. The son of the former opposition leader was a late entrant to the poll. He was part of an opposition coalition that chose Fayulu as the opposition candidate, only to reverse course weeks later and enter the race.

However, analysts say they see a logic in this announcement because of the clear failure of the ruling party candidate to endear himself to the population. Kabila, who had agreed to step down after this poll, pushed Shadary, his handpicked successor. However, Shadary was so clearly unpopular, analysts say, that the electoral commission could not have plausibly anointed him as the winner.

“The electoral victory of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is highly surprising, but the decision makes sense in the context of DRC’s political dynamics,” EXX Africa Business Risk Intelligence wrote in a report shortly after results were released.

 

Congo, Election
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu wipes his face before speaking to the press at his headquarters in Kinshasa, DRC, Jan. 10, 2019. Fayulu, who came second in the presidential poll behind Felix Tshisekedi, called the results fraudulent. VOA

 

 “Outgoing President Joseph Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila’s control of the electoral commission. At least initially, Tshisekedi will be dependent on the political favor of Kabila, who seeks immunity from prosecution and protection for his family’s substantial business interests.”

Few analysts believe the poll was free, fair or transparent. On election day, electoral materials arrived late, voters couldn’t find their names on the rolls, and polling machines failed or were too complicated for voters. Provisional results were delayed, raising rumors and suspicions.

“Kabila did not want to risk announcing Shadary as the winner, which would have triggered violent protests and international condemnation,” the report continued. “Instead, he chose to split the opposition by creating a power-sharing deal with Tshisekedi.”

‘Captured for a very long time’

A spokesman for Tshisekedi confirmed that his camp had been negotiating with Kabila long ahead of the handover, further sparking suspicions that this result was manipulated by the electoral commission.

Analyst Claude Kabemba, who leads the Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Resource Watch, says the real power is, and always has been, behind the scenes.

Congo, election
DRC President Joseph Kabila smiles as he arrives to vote at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

“Oh, Joseph Kabila, we said, directly or indirectly, is going to stay in power,” he said. “And I think we might have a prisoner in the presidency. And for me, that is scary, unless I am wrong, but judging from what has been happening behind the scenes — and if Tshisekedi cannot rise to the occasion, we will be captured for a very long time.”

Also Read: Ebola-Recovered Woman Gives Birth To Healthy Child In Congo

Analyst Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group predicts Fayulu’s supporters will not take the official result lying down.

“There will be a lot of anger. That anger will spill over into the streets, I’m quite sure. A lot of people — a lot of his supporters — will agree that he won, and will see a result for Tshisekedi as a stolen result, so that’s very dangerous.” (VOA)

Next Story

Taiwan President Announced Re- election after she Spoke Against China’s President Suggestion

Tsai indicated she plans to run for another four-year term as president.

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taiwan, china, president
FILE - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Jan. 5, 2019. VOA

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced her re-election bid this week following a bump in public polling that came after she spoke out against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s suggestion that Taiwan and China unify as one country.

She was polling at 24 percent after her party lost local elections in November. In January she was speaking out every few days against Xi’s idea and her approval ratings hit 34.5 percent by Jan. 21, according to a Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation survey.

On Wednesday, Tsai indicated she plans to run for another four-year term as president. Inspired by her jump in approval ratings, Tsai will center at least the early part of her campaign over the coming year on raising public suspicion of China, political scientists say.

“Their campaign strategy is to speak of hating China, fearing China and refusing China,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the international affairs college at National Chengchi University. If officials reiterate these messages and they appear in the mass media, he said, “ultimately people will be affected by them.”

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the 1940s and insists that the two sides eventually unify. Most Taiwanese oppose that outcome.

 

taiwan, china, president
FILE- President of China Xi Jinping arrives for the APEC CEO Summit 2018 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Nov. 17, 2018. VOA

Opportunity to talk about China

The Chinese president’s Jan. 2 speech urging Taiwan to accept unification gave Tsai an unexpected opening to warn citizens against ties with China, political experts say.

In his remarks, Xi urged Taiwan to merge with China under a “one country, two systems” model that his government applies now to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is ruled from Beijing, but local officials make some decisions.

China has claimed Taiwan since the Chinese Civil War, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost and rebased their government in Taiwan. Tsai took office in 2016. Since then she has irked China by refusing to negotiate on the condition that both sides belong to one China.

More than 70 percent of Taiwanese say in government surveys they prefer today’s self-rule, or full legal independence from China, over unification.

In one comment since the Chinese president’s speech, Tsai warned at an impromptu news conference Wednesday against any China-Taiwan peace agreement.

“China’s military ambitions and not giving up deployment of arms against Taiwan are making the region unstable,” she said. “As China doesn’t give up weapons aimed at Taiwan and emphasizes ‘one country, two systems,’ there’s no way to negotiate equally and there can’t be any real peace.”

Knack for China issues

Tsai, as former chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and a former government official in charge of Taiwan’s China policy, knows the issue particularly well, said Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic studies professor in Taiwan.

“This is her forte,” Lin said. “She has been immersed in it for 18 long years.”

Since 2016, China has shown displeasure with Tsai by passing military aircraft and ships near Taiwan and persuading five foreign countries to switch allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. Taiwan has just 17 allies left.

“In international relations, what she can do is limited, we all know that, but in winning the public support in Taiwan, especially on controversial issues like ‘one country, two systems,’ she’s very, very capable,” Lin said.

Her party takes a guarded view of China compared to Taiwan’s main opposition camp, which advocates that the two sides talk on Beijing’s condition.

taiwan, china, president
FILE – Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je casts his ballot at a polling station, Nov. 24, 2018, in Taipei, Taiwan. VOA

Tough campaign

According to a survey released Thursday by Taiwan television network TVBS, Tsai would take 16 percent of the vote if the presidential race were held today and she ran against non-party aligned Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and Han Kuo-yu, opposition Nationalist Party mayor of the southern city Kaohsiung. The two mayors would get shares of more than 30 percent each, TVBS said.

taiwan, china, president
FILE – Nationalist Party’s Han Kuo-yu reacts after winning the mayoral election in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Nov. 24, 2018. VOA

Much of the public wants Tsai to stand up against China but also take stronger action on domestic economic problems, voters said in interviews in November. Among the domestic issues: low wages compared to other parts of Asia and rising costs, especially real estate.

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“She has already shown that she is against the ‘one family, two sides’ or ‘one country, two systems.’ That’s good,” said Shane Lee, political scientist with Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “That will probably give her some points. But domestically there are many policies she will have to change.” (VOA)