Riot police deployed at the electoral commission’s headquarters in Kinshasa on Wednesday before the expected announcement of a result in Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election, a vote the opposition said was marred by fraud.
Pre-election polls gave businessman Martin Fayulu a healthy lead but his supporters believe President Joseph Kabila plans to rig the vote in favor of his hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, or alternatively to forge a power-sharing pact with Felix Tshisekedi, head of the largest opposition party.
Any widespread perception the election has been stolen could set off a destabilizing cycle of unrest, repeating violence that followed elections in 2006 and 2011, many Congolese fear.
The election commission (CENI) said late on Tuesday it had held what it called a series of “evaluation meetings and deliberations”, after which it would “proceed to the publication of provisional results from the presidential election”.
“We don’t want people to die when they announce (the results), blood to be spilled,” said Kinshasa resident Ohn Kabamba. “We are fed up, we are tired and we are waiting for a peaceful announcement which will allow us to rejoice rather than cry.”
“If the CENI announces the true results of the ballot boxes it will be calm but if not, I don’t know what will happen,” said another Kinshasa resident, Abraham Tumba.
Journalists were summoned around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) to the CENI headquarters, where a banner said results would be announced on Wednesday.
Kabila had wanted to hand over to Shadary when he stands down this month after 18 years in power – two years after the official end of his mandate.
But polls suggested the former interior minister was trailing both Tshisekedi and frontrunner Fayulu ahead of the Dec. 30 poll, a contest that was meant to result in the first democratic transfer of power in Congo’s 59 years of independence.
The Roman Catholic Church, which helped monitor the poll, has said there was a clear winner in the vote but refrained from saying who it thought had won. It has been working behind the scenes in the strongly Catholic central African country to secure a peaceful transfer of power.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu met on Wednesday and urged CENI to speedily release the results to maintain stability.
Last week, South Africa, long a Kabila ally, joined Russia and China at the U.N. Security Council in blocking the release of a statement proposed by France that would have welcomed the holding of the vote, but criticized the government’s decision to cut access to the Internet and some media outlets.