Felix Tshisekedi wins DR Congo presidential vote: electoral board

Leroy Wright
January 10, 2019

Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the victor of the long-delayed presidential election, the electoral commission announced early Thursday to the surprise of many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging.

Long-delayed and widely anticipated, the election had the potential to be either the mineral-rich central African country's first peaceful democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, or a trigger-point for renewed violence.

Rival opposition leader Martin Fayulu immediately disputed Tshisekedi's victory, calling it "an unacceptable electoral fraud".

Provisional results put him ahead of another opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, and the ruling coalition's Emmanuel Shadary.

Shouts of joy erupted at the commission's offices as the results were announced early Thursday morning, AFP journalists reported.

A CENI source and a diplomat said they expected results to be announced later on Wednesday.

The preliminary results of the December 30 vote had been expected on Sunday, but the commission indefinitely delayed the announcement, to the growing suspicion of many Congolese.

The country's influential Catholic Church signaled last week that it knew who had won, having gathered data and recorded infringements of election rules on polling day. "If the official result does not reflect the truth, there will be a crisis", he added, as a crowd of two dozen people at a newsstand nodded. Kabila has promised a peaceful transition of power.

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Tshisekedi received more than seven million votes, compared to about 6.4 million for Fayulu, who had warned against manipulation.

"This is the coronation of a lifetime", the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens Mikindo, said shortly after the announcement that his candidate had won, above the cheers at party headquarters.

Congolese activist groups have urged people to "be ready to massively take to the streets" if the commission does not publish results in accordance with "the truth of the ballot boxes".

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

"He said he is will to be a president for all the people of Congo and thanked Fayulu and Shadary, saying he is willing to work with them to build a better Congo", Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Kinshasa, said.

He was barred from running for another term under the constitution, and was supposed to step down two years ago, but the election was postponed after the electoral commission said it needed more time to register voters.

After several days of intense speculation on the outcome of the DRC's presidential elections, the country's election board, CENI, proclaimed Felix Tshisekedi the victor.

How will Congolese citizens react?

. He is known as the "people's soldier" for leading protests against President Kabila. "The figures compiled by the Catholic Church showed that Fayulu won an absolute majority of the votes", the AP says, citing "several diplomats briefed on the matter".

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