DRC ruling party gives a nod to opposition presidential candidate


President Kabila's majority takes note of the nomination of MP Martin Fayulu as the joint candidate by a fringe group of the opposition.

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Martin Fayulu, leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, (Picture: AFP)


DRC - The Democratic Republic of Congo's ruling party on Monday acknowledged the opposition's choice of a little-known lawmaker to run for next month's key presidential elections but wondered if he would have enough time to prepare.

Following three days of talks in Geneva to bridge rifts, seven opposition leaders on Sunday picked Martin Fayulu as their joint candidate for the December 23 ballot to replace President Joseph Kabila after 18 years.

"President Kabila's majority takes note of the nomination of MP Martin Fayulu as the joint candidate by a fringe group of the opposition," said Tunda ya Kasende, deputy secretary general of the ruling PPRD.

"I wonder if they will have time to prepare to face our candidate who has a team which has been working for many months," he remarked, saying the PPRD was "not worried" by the choice of Fayulu.

The elections are critical for the future of DRC, a sprawling, mineral-rich country that has never experienced a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Fayulu was one of four opposition candidates who had been authorised by the country's election body to run in the elections but the various opposition groups had decided to try and pool their efforts by agreeing on one candidate.

The choice was a surprise as Felix Tshisekedi, who heads the UDPS which for years has been the main opposition party, had widely been seen as the front-runner.

UDPS secretary general Jean-Marc Kabund said he would address the party about the issue later on Monday.

Fayulu will run at the head of a new opposition coalition called "Lamuka" -- which means "wake up" in both Lingala and Swahili.

He will stand against Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardliner and former interior minister who is backed by Kabila.

The 61-year-old MP, whose Engagement for Citizenship and Development party holds just three seats in the National Assembly, has been at the forefront protest marches opposing Kabila's efforts to remain in power beyond his constitutional term.

A former oil executive who was educated in the United States and France, Fayulu has also emerged as a strident critic of voting machines -- one of the issues dividing the opposition, with critics saying they would leave the ballot open to fraud.

He has threatened to pull out of the race if the South Korean-made electronic devices are brought in for the vote, while Tshisekedi had said he would run whether the machines are used or not.

The issue may have tilted the selection in Fayulu's favour.

Following Sunday's announcement, he vowed to "work relentlessly" for them to be scrapped.