Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi attends talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People on May 26, 2023 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Thomas Peter - Pool/Getty Images)


Church tallies show clear leader in Congo election race


Election observers from Democratic Republic of Congo’s Protestant and Catholic churches said their parallel count based on a sample of votes cast in the country’s December 20 election showed one presidential candidate had garnered more than 50 per cent support, even as they highlighted a multitude of problems with the poll.

The observation mission from the churches, which have enormous power in the largely Christian country of 100 million people, didn’t name the leading candidate. A partial tally of 10.5 million ballots released by the electoral commission through Thursday showed that Felix Tshisekedi, the incumbent leader, had 76 per cent backing.

The commission is set to release provisional results December 31.The 25,000-person church mission told reporters in Kinshasa, the capital, on Thursday that it had documented “numerous cases of irregularities likely to affect the integrity of the results of different elections in certain locations.” Last week’s vote also encompassed the selection of national, provincial and local officials.

Voting in Africa’s second-biggest country was marked by major logistical delays that stretched the process over several days. Many of Tshisekedi’s opponents have rejected the outcome and called for a rerun.

The churches have played an historic role in holding Congo’s governments to account. They were vocal opponents of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Congo — which he renamed Zaire — for 32 years. In 2018, the Catholic Church’s observer mission called into doubt Tshisekedi’s election victory and suggested another candidate, Martin Fayulu, had won.

Businessman and soccer-team owner Moise Katumbi is in second place in the latest election, and Fayulu in third, the electoral commission’s partial count showed.