(Reuters) - Congo’s Catholic Church، one of the country’s most respected institutions، challenged Thursday’s official results from a chaotic presidential election، suggesting its tally did not give victory to opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Though bishops stopped short of naming a winner، the announcement sets up a potential showdown with President Joseph Kabila’s government over a poll many fear could provoke more violence in the vast and volatile nation of 80 million people.
The electoral commission (CENI) announced overnight that Tshisekedi، 55، had won the Dec. 30 vote، edging out another challenger، businessman Martin Fayulu.
“The results from the presidential election as published by CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from polling stations and vote counts،” the National Episcopal Conference of Congo observers said in a statement.
Both France and Belgium expressed doubts. And three diplomats briefed on the findings of the 40،000-strong Catholic observer mission told Reuters they showed Fayulu winning.
He said Kabila had engineered an “electoral coup” to deny him the presidency. Nevertheless، supporters of Congo’s president-elect were celebrating their unlikely win.
Though most of the nation seemed calm on Thursday، at least two people were killed in violence at a western town.
Anger over the results، and the Fayulu camp’s suspicions Tshisekedi won by cutting a power-sharing deal with Kabila، have cast a cloud over what is meant to be Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence.