Congo’s ruling coalition wins majority in national assembly

Congo’s electoral commission has said opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi won with 38 percent of the vote while runner-up Martin Fayulu received 34 percent. Above, Tshisekedi supporters celebrate his win with talcum powder. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Congo’s ruling coalition wins majority in national assembly

  • The national assembly majority sharply reduces the chances of dramatic reforms under the declared presidential election winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi

KINSHASA, Congo: The ruling coalition of Congo’s outgoing President Joseph Kabila has won a large majority of national assembly seats, the electoral commission announced early Saturday, while the presidential election runner-up was poised to file a court challenge alleging fraud.
The national assembly majority sharply reduces the chances of dramatic reforms under the declared presidential election winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi. The election runner-up, Martin Fayulu, has accused Tshisekedi of a backroom deal with Kabila to win power in the mineral-rich nation as the ruling party candidate did poorly.
Congolese face the extraordinary situation of a presidential vote allegedly rigged in favor of the opposition. “This is more than an electoral farce; it’s a tragedy,” the LUCHA activist group tweeted Saturday, noting the ruling party majority in both national assembly and provincial elections.
Fayulu, a businessman who has been vocal about cleaning up widespread corruption, is filing the court challenge on Saturday.
His opposition coalition on Friday said he won 61 percent of the vote, citing figures compiled by the Catholic Church’s 40,000 election observers across the vast Central African country. The figures show Tshieskedi received 18 percent, the coalition said.
The church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has said its figures showed a different winner from the one officially declared. In remarks to UN Security Council on Friday, the church urged the electoral commission to release its detailed vote results for public scrutiny.
The commission has said Tshisekedi won with 38 percent of the vote while Fayulu received 34 percent.
This could be Congo’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but observers have warned that a court challenge could lead to violence. Some Fayulu supporters have worried that the constitutional court could invalidate the results, keeping Kabila in power until a new election.
There are two options, electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa told the Security Council: The official results are accepted or the vote is annulled.
“Even if Tshisekedi’s presidency survives these court challenges, he will be compromised beyond repair and reliant on Kabila, whose patronage network controls most of the country’s levers of power, including the security forces,” professor Pierre Engelbert, a fellow with at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, wrote on Friday.
The Dec. 30 election came after more than two turbulent years of delays as many Congolese worried that Kabila, in power since 2001, sought a way to stay in office to protect his sprawling assets.
Statements by the international community, including African regional blocs, have not congratulated Tshisekedi, merely taking note of official results and urging against violence.
Congo’s 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the vote, though the UN peacekeeping mission has reported at least a dozen deaths in protests in Kwilu province, with authorities noting demonstrations in Kisangani and Mbandaka cities.
Internet service has been cut off across the country since election day.
Tshisekedi had not been widely considered the leading candidate. Long in the shadow of his father, the late opposition leader Etienne, he broke away from the opposition’s unity candidate, Fayulu, to stand on his own.
After election results were announced, Tshisekedi said Kabila would be an “important partner” in the transition.
Fayulu, who was backed by two popular opposition leaders barred by the government from running, is seen as more of a threat to Kabila’s interests.
The difference between Tshisekedi and Fayulu in official results was some 684,000 votes. One million voters were barred from the election at the last minute, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak. Elsewhere, observers reported numerous problems including malfunctioning voting machines and polling stations that opened hours late.
The presidential inauguration will be on Jan. 22, the electoral commission said Saturday.


Philippines warns of ‘unfriendly’ greeting for uninvited warships

Updated 32 min 40 sec ago

Philippines warns of ‘unfriendly’ greeting for uninvited warships

  • There have been multiple sightings of Chinese warships in Philippine territorial waters
  • The Philippines has lodged several diplomatic protests in recent weeks

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of “unfriendly” treatment for foreign ships traveling in the country’s territorial waters without permission, in a rare swipe at China’s use of warships just a few miles off Manila’s coast.
Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, on Tuesday made the demand for transparency amid frustration by the Philippine military at multiple sightings this year of Chinese warships moving within the country’s 12 mile territorial sea, at various locations in the archipelago.
“All foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” Panelo said.
“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” he added.
Panelo did not refer to China by name, nor elaborate on what that enforcement might entail.
The Philippines has lodged several diplomatic protests in recent weeks over the activities of Chinese coast guard, navy and paramilitary fishing vessels in Philippine-controlled areas of the South China Sea and in its territorial waters.
The armed forces has released images and cited witness sightings between February and early August of Chinese warships off Palawan and Tawi Tawi islands, a pattern that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week described as an “irritant.”
Duterte is facing heat at home for what critics say is his passive approach to Chinese provocations in exchange for a business relationship with Beijing that is not working out well for him, with promised investments slow in coming.
Though surveys consistently show Duterte enjoying a level of domestic approval never seen at this point in a presidency, the same polls show growing disdain for China over its conduct in the South China Sea, and reservations among some Filipinos over a massive influx of Chinese online gaming workers under Duterte.
Duterte will visit China from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, his spokesman said. He has promised to discuss a South China Sea 2016 international arbitration victory over China with counterpart Xi Jinping.
Duterte has until now chosen not to push that ruling, which invalidated China’s claim of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. Beijing did not participate in the court proceedings and rejected the ruling.
The South China Sea is a vital route for ships carrying more than $3 trillion in trade every year. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of it.