(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Bemba condemns poll ruling but ready to lead opposition

[DRC] MLC leader and vice-president designate Jean-Pierre Bemba upon his arrival in Kinshasa. Date: 16 July 2003.

The loser in Congo's presidential election, Jean-Pierre Bemba, said on Tuesday that while he disagreed with the Supreme Court's endorsement of rival Joseph Kabila as winner, he would lead the opposition.

"In the greater national interest and to preserve peace and to save the country from chaos and violence, today I, before God, the nation and history, in permanent communion with you all, vow to lead this fight for change within the framework of a strong opposition," he said on his radio and television stations.

The Supreme Court ruling endorsed the results of the 29 October poll run-off that gave Kabila 58 percent of the valid votes cast and Bemba 42 percent.

Bemba had filed an electoral fraud petition with the Supreme Court and asked it to nullify the vote. After reviewing the petition, the court rejected Bemba's objections, on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Foremost among Bemba's objections to the voting process were the 1.5 million people placed on a special electoral list by the Independent Electoral Commission. While not challenging the legitimacy of the list, Bemba said there were simply too many people on it, making it suspect.

The list was for civil servants on duty during polling day who could not be included on the normal voters' roll. Bemba maintained there could not have been that many civil servants in the country.

Bemba also complained that the electoral commission would not allow his staff to verify the names on this special list. During the court hearing, Bemba's lawyers claimed that people on the special list had voted for Kabila.

In another objection, Bemba's lawyers said his officials were not allowed into some polling stations in the east of the country, so they could not verify the voting process. Those who were allowed entry, he said, were not permitted to examine the votes.

In addition, Bemba objected to what he said was the practice of giving his officials the wrong addresses for polling stations, making them difficult to find.

"Our objections to this election remain and we are justified in contesting the verdict," Bemba said.

The International Committee Supporting the Transition, made up of ambassadors accredited to the DRC to promote the political process towards democratic elections, has urged Bemba and Kabila to call for public calm; for both men to abide by their post-electoral undertaking obliging the loser to accept the poll verdict, and the victor to ensure the physical security of the loser and allow him free movement throughout the country.


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