Opposition's Tshisekedi wins delayed DR Congo presidential poll

Opposition's Tshisekedi wins delayed DR Congo presidential poll

Opposition's Tshisekedi wins delayed DR Congo presidential poll

The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to see its first handover of power in 18 years after opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was Thursday named by election officials as the provisional victor of an historic presidential poll.

Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a Kinshasa lawmaker and businessman, has urged the electoral commission to announce the true results as quickly as possible and warned it not to "play with fire, it is very risky".

After deploying tens of thousands of its own election observers, the powerful Catholic Church last week said it knew the outcome of the ballot and called on the authorities to reveal the result "in keeping with truth and justice".

With 7 million votes, or 38 percent, Tshisekedi outpaced Fayulu, another opposition frontrunner, who came in second with more than 6 million votes.

The presidents of South Africa and Zambia are urging Congo's electoral commission to "speedily" complete vote-counting and announce the delayed results of the December 30 presidential election.

"I pay tribute to President Joseph Kabila and today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather, a partner in democratic change in our country", Tshisekedi told a crowd of supporters at the headquarters of his UDPS party.

The few opinion polls that had been conducted in the vast country ahead of the election had Fayulu, a former oil executive backed by two political heavyweights, as clear favourite.

Speaking to the press shortly after the results were announced, Fayulu called on the Congolese people to "rise as one man to protect victory".

Opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi casting his ballot in Kinshasa.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission emphasised that, regardless of the final official results of the elections, the situation in the DRC requires "genuine national consensus based on respect for democratic principles and human rights, as well as the preservation and consolidation of peace".

Vote counting had been repeatedly delayed despite Sunday being D-day for the announcement of the provisional results with the official electoral office CENI saying that the delay was due to only a manual tally being counted, raising suspicions by the opposition that the delay was deliberate.

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Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the handpicked successor of outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, had over 23 percent.

"This is because a Tshisekedi presidency would be the least bad alternative to a Shadary victory for the regime as it would put a veil of legitimacy on the electoral process and would be more manageable than a Fayulu presidency", she said.

Mr Tshisekedi is the son of late opposition leader Etienne but is relatively unknown and untested.

Many Congolese had objected to Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.

Fayulu called on the religious body for support and to proclaim him the victor.

But in the run-up to the results, Tshisekedi said Kabila had nothing to fear should he come to power, comments analysts interpreted as efforts to reassure the president and his supporters that interests accumulated over two decades in power were not at risk. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing.

If the church found Fayulu won, "how will population react?" And in a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country's 40 million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

Congo's government cut internet service the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media.

Residents of the capital, Kinshasa, said the heavy security presence was a bad sign, with some recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and standing behind his outspoken father.

"There's no spirit of revenge", said Tshisekedi.

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