Felix Tshisekedi wins DR Congo presidential vote


International desk: Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has won the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) long-delayed presidential election, according to provisional results announced by the country’s electoral commission.

“Having gained … 38.57 percent of the vote, Felix Tshisekedi is provisionally declared the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Corneille Nangaa, the head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), said late on Wednesday in the capital, Kinshasa.

Nangaa said Tshisekedi had received more than seven million votes, compared to about 6.4 million for another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, who led in polling and warned against manipulation.

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the hand-picked candidate of long-time President Joseph Kabila, was third with about 4.4 million votes.

The announcement came hours after riot police deployed at the commission’s headquarters in Kinshasa amid fears of violence due to a disputed result.

Election observers reported a number of irregularities during the December 30 vote and the opposition alleged it was marred by fraud.

The result could lead to the vast country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, with Kabila due to leave office this month after 18 years in power – and two years after the official end of his mandate.

But vote tallies compiled by the DRC’s Catholic Church found Fayulu had clearly won the election, two diplomats told Reuters news agency, raising the spectre of a standoff that many fear could lead to violence.

In a conference last week, the Church’s bishops said that it knew the identity of the winner and demanded that CENI publish accurate results. The Church did not say who it thought the winner was, but briefed diplomats on its conclusions.

Losing candidates can contest the results before the country’s constitutional court. It is not immediately clear whether Fayulu will do so.

Some observers have suggested that Kabila’s government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a win for Shadary.

The result is certain to fuel further suspicion that Tshisekedi struck a power-sharing pact with Kabila. Tshisekedi’s camp has acknowledged contacts since the vote with Kabila’s representatives but denies there has been any kind of deal.

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from outside the commission’s headquarters, said Tshisekedi’s supporters were taking to the streets to celebrate the result.

“The news came as a surprise,” she said. “A lot of people who didn’t have much faith in the electoral commission really thought that Shadary, who is backed by Kabila, would win.”

Tshisekedi, 55, is the son of the late Etienne Tshisekedi, the face of the DRC’s opposition for decades.

The leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress has promised a return to the rule of law, to fight the “gangrene” of corruption and to bring peace to the conflict-wracked east of the resource-rich country.

More than one million people were kept from voting on election day because of an Ebola outbreak and militia violence in opposition strongholds, mainly in DRC’s east.

Observers said many polling stations opened late and closed early and in some places voting machines malfunctioned.


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