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Surprise Winner Of Congolese Election Is An Opposition Leader

10 January 2019

The commission declared opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, the official victor early on Thursday in what could lead to Congo's first democratic transfer of power.

"Outgoing President Joseph Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila's control of the electoral commission", Robert Besseling, a Johannesburg-based executive director at business risk consultancy Exx Africa, said in an emailed note.

Democratic Republic of Congo Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.

The outright annulment of the 30 December election remains less likely, despite Kabila's chosen successor candidate (Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary) having probably lost heavily in the presidential vote, due to the mass anti-government protests this would likely spark.

But Fayulu dismissed the results announced by the electoral commission as "a true electoral coup".

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

"The influential Catholic Bishop's Conference, which fielded 40,000 observers, says the outcome of the much-anticipated vote is at odds with its tally".

Congo's powerful Catholic Church has said it found a clear victor from data compiled by its 40,000 observers deployed to all polling stations.

If confirmed, Mr Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence.

Losing candidates can contest the results before the country's constitutional court.

"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.

On November 11, Tshisekedi joined six other opposition leaders to rally behind a single unity candidate, Martin Fayulu, to take on Shadary. Kabila has promised a peaceful transition of power. The Kinshasa lawmaker and businessman said his coalition would release its own figures if the announced results don't conform to the will of the Congolese people. Opposition and activist groups had urged people to be ready to protest on the streets if the results didn't match "the truth of the ballot boxes". The delay in announcing results has led some Congolese to suspect possible manipulation in favor of the ruling party.

The head of the electoral commission, Corneille Nangaa, earlier said that the results from a number of polling stations still needed to be counted.

Some Congolese tired of Kabila's long rule, two turbulent years of election delays and years of conflict that killed millions of people said they simply wanted peace.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his outspoken father. 80 per cent of the results had been compiled so far, according to a source at the electoral commission who spoke to RFI.

While Nshole acknowledged the difficulties in manually counting votes, especially in remote areas, he warned that the longer the election results are delayed, the more that suspicion will grow among the Congolese people.

Surprise Winner Of Congolese Election Is An Opposition Leader