(Bloomberg) -- Former Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila strengthened his grip on the nation’s parliament after the Constitutional Court disqualified more than 20 opposition lawmakers.
Former opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi succeeded Kabila in January, following disputed elections in which Kabila’s supporters secured majorities in both chambers of parliament and in provincial assemblies. Second-placed Martin Fayulu claims he obtained the most votes and that Kabila did a secret deal with Tshisekedi to deprive him of victory -- a charge both men deny.
The court invalidated the victories of 23 opposition members of the National Assembly, according to a statement emailed Wednesday by Fayulu’s alliance known as Lamuka. The decisions mean the political group has lost 20% of its representatives in the lower chamber of parliament, according to the statement.
The beneficiaries of every ruling were unsuccessful candidates from Kabila’s Common Front for Congo, or FCC, who filed complaints with the court, according to Lamuka lawmaker Christian Mwando and Georges Kapiamba, the president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice, a local human-rights group.
Six of the Constitutional Court’s nine judges were nominated before Tshisekedi came to power by Kabila or the National Assembly, which was loyal to the former head of state. The remaining three were chosen by Congo’s High Council of the Judiciary.
Tshisekedi’s supporters obtained less than 10% of the 500-member National Assembly and in April announced they would work with the more than 300 FCC lawmakers to form a new parliamentary majority. None of Tshisekedi’s supporters lost their seats in the spate of invalidations, according to Mwando. Those disqualified are allies of Lamuka leaders Fayulu, Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba.
“After the orchestrated cheating in the presidential election, the manipulation and corruption of the judiciary by the FCC has reached intolerable limits,” Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo said in a statement. Kabila and Tshisekedi “have assassinated the rule of law,” Lamuka said in its statement as the group suspended its participation in parliament.
FCC national coordinator and Kabila’s former chief-of-staff, Nehemie Mwilanya, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the Constitutional Court said he would respond later to Lamuka’s allegations.
Tshisekedi’s alliance, known as CACH, agreed in March to govern Congo in coalition with the FCC. After Tshisekedi appointed a prime minister from the FCC’s ranks last month, the two groups are in protracted talks about the composition of the next government. Kabila’s preferred successor came third in the presidential election.
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