GOMA – Opposition leader in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Martin Madidi Fayulu is leading a race to replace Joseph Kabila in an election on Sunday, according to a public opinion poll released on Friday.
Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, backed by influential heavyweights Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi, both barred by authorities from the presidential race was placed in the lead with 44 percent.
Another opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi followed with 23 percent while Kabila’s successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary trailed with 18 percent, according to the latest poll by the Congo Research Group at New York University.
Kabila appointed little known Shadary and former interior minister to represent his ruling coalition party.
Shadary’s camp on Friday rejected the results of the poll, saying their candidate is very popular.
“The polls reveal an electorate eager for change. A large majority supports the opposition,” Congo Research Group (CRG), which commissioned the poll on which the survey was based, said in a statement.
“Fayulu is the clear favorite to win elections if they are free and fair,” it said in a statement.
Fayulu, who was appointed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opposition as its nominee in the race to replace Joseph Kabila, is among outspoken voices against Kabila’s governance.
Fayulu, 62, has been arrested several times during opposition demonstrations across the country and was struck in the head with a rubber bullet this year during protests.
He enjoys support from Katumbi, an ex-governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province who was prevented from entering the country to register his candidacy and Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president who was disqualified by Congo’s electoral commission because of witness-tampering convictions.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country, has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power. Results of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections will be released on January 15 and a new President sworn-in on January 18.