The Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo has ruled that at least 32 members of parliament were not rightfully elected. That figure includes 17 members of the ruling alliance and 15 opposition members. Nearly 100 other sitting MPs may also still face a legal challenge to their election last year.
There were some 19,000 candidates in the Congo's parliamentary elections last November, and 5,000 of them filed a legal challenge to the results. The Supreme Court decided that 521 of these cases needed to be investigated, and on Wednesday started announcing its verdicts.
Among the MPs to have their elections thrown out are Jean Claude Baende, the governor of Equateur province, who was regarded as one of president Joseph Kabila's closest supporters in that region. Two brothers of the president of Congo's electoral commission also lost their seats.
Doli Ibefo executive director of the human rights group, Voice of the Voiceless, tells what he thought of the rulings.
He said the fact that members of the presidential majority have had their elections invalidated will come as a surprise to the public. But the public needs to ask if any big fish have lost their seats or if these are just minnows.
Local media reports say that Jean Claude Baende had become very unpopular in Equateur and the government may have decided that his disputed re-election was an embarrassment.
There have been rumors in Kinshasa that more senior members of the presidential majority might have their elections invalidated. Ibefo says that if this happened it would be significant.
In that case, he said, people will say that change is starting to happen and that there is an idea of change. But, he said, if it’s just the little fish who have to leave parliament, then the rulings are just to make the outside world think that the Supreme Court is doing its job.
The replacement of the MPs whose elections have been invalidated will not affect balance of power in the 500-seat parliament as the ruling majority are net gainers from the changes by about six seats.
An opposition MP, Martin Fayulu, whose party has lost a seat thanks to the rulings, says he thought the judges should explain how they reached their decision.
"To invalidate someone you have to call him for recounting, but nobody has been called for a recount," said Fayulu. "Nobody can contest what the Supreme Court has done, I agree, but you have to follow the procedure. What was the procedure that these guys followed?"
A diplomatic source in Kinshasa believes the court has already decided that 388 of the results it has investigated can stand. Around 100 other MPs may still have an anxious wait for a verdict.
The parliamentary elections last November were criticized by international observers for widespread irregularities.