Jan. 7 (UPI) — The Democratic Republic of Congo postponed the release of provisional results from the country’s presidential election originally scheduled to be released Sunday.
Corneille Nangaa, president of the National Independent Electoral Commission or CENI, told reporters that only 53 percent of ballots from polling stations had arrived at counting centers after announcing the delay Saturday.
Nangaa didn’t provide a date when the results of the Dec. 30 election to select a replacement for President Joseph Kabila, who is stepping down after being in power since 2001, will be released.
The delay has furthered suspicion that the government is working to rig the vote in favor of Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who was most closely challenged by opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.
Pierre Lumbi, Fayulu’s campaign director, urged CENI to “quickly announce the results” of the election as they were recorded at the country’s almost 75,000 polling stations.
“The Lamuka coalition warns CENI against any attempt to modify the results which were posted on the polling stations and will hold it responsible for all consequences which would result from this situation,” Lumbi said.
Most foreign election observers were not invited or not accredited by CENI to oversee the elections, prompting criticism from the U.S. State Department, but it was partially overseen by 40,000 observers from the DRC’s Catholic church.
The Catholic mission, known as CENCO, said Thursday its tallies showed a clear win for Fayulu. It also said that 38 percent of polling stations that it observed were missing materials at the start of election day, ballot boxes were not sealed before counting in hundreds of cases and polling stations did not properly verify voters’ identities.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the report was part of “neo-colonialist and imperialist escapades” by Western interests.
“It’s a flagrant attempt to capture the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an attempt to control the process in order to capture and orient it,” Mende said. “They have tried to impose on us the people who want to come to perpetuate the imperialist order, but we take note of this attempt and we’ll make sure it fails.”
The DRC’s government has shut off Internet and text-messaging capabilities in most of the country since the day after the elections and warned media that only CENI is allowed to publish results.
CENCO’s president, Archbishop Marcel Utembi, warned CENI that publishing results that do not conform to the truth of the ballot box” could spark violence throughout the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that 80 U.S. military personnel had been deployed to nearby Gabon with the priority of evacuating American nationals in the event of violence.
Trump added the troops “will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.”