Congo police break up small protest over parliamentary election results

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Police in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday dispersed a small protest in the capital Kinshasa against the provisional results of the December legislative election, the latest flare-up in tensions over the disputed poll.

Around 50 supporters of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) party briefly took to the streets on Tuesday morning to dispute the number of seats the party won.

They set tyres on fire and chanted slogans critical of the electoral commission before police moved in, beating some participants and arresting others, a Reuters reporter said.

The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The protesters said the make-up of the National Assembly does not reflect the MLC’s true election performance. The party is led by Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba – an ally of re-elected President Felix Tshisekedi – and a member of the ruling coalition.

Tshisekedi’s UDPS party won 69 seats in the December parliamentary election, up from 35 in the 2018 election, placing it ahead of more than 40 other parties. The MLC won 19 seats, compared to 17 in 2018, according to the provisional results announced this week.

Congo’s opposition parties have repeatedly denounced the election as fraudulent and called for a re-run – a demand authorities have dismissed.

The fallout from the vote threatens to further destabilise Congo, the world’s third-largest copper producer, and the top producer of cobalt, a battery component needed for the green energy transition.

Divisions within Tshisekedi’s ruling Sacred Union coalition, which held over 390 seats in the outgoing legislature, could jeopardise the majority he needs to name a new government.

A senior MLC member, who did not wish to be named, said he believed the number of seats that the MLC had officially won was too low, but that the party did not endorse protests.

The results of the legislative vote followed the Constitutional Court’s confirmation of Tshisekedi’s landslide re-election in the disputed Dec. 20-24 general election. Voting was marred by allegations of fraud, widespread logistical setbacks and other irregularities.

Independent observers and several Western leaders have also raised doubts about the vote’s credibility. The election commission has acknowledged irregularities took place but said they did not affect the results.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Ros Russell)