Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Opposition's Felix Tshisekedi declared victor of DRC presidential poll

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Ellis Copeland | 10 January, 2019, 16:42

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi has won the Democratic Republic of Congo's tightly contested presidential vote, the electoral commission says.

Mr Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, had not been widely considered the leading candidate.

Tshisekedi's opponents were Martin Fayulu, who earned 6.4-million votes, and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary with 4.4-million votes.

The choice fuelled accusations that Kabila - concerned about possible retribution - would use Shadary to protect his interests after the vote.

The victor of the Democratic Republic of Congo's historic presidential poll on Thursday hailed long-term leader Joseph Kabila as a "partner in democratic change".

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.

Tshisekedi's father, Etienne, was a famous opposition leader under Mobutu.

The election's supervisors had faced mounting pressure at home and overseas to publish the results after repeated delays stoked fears for the giant country's stability.

In a conference last week, the Church's bishops said that it knew the identity of the victor and demanded that CENI publish accurate results.

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"The results have nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box", he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale, calling on observers to publish the real results.

However, he never took up his seat as he did not formally recognise his father's defeat to Kabila in a presidential election the same year.

Analysts are now looking to the verdict of the influential body representing Congo's Catholic bishops that said January 3 that results gathered at polling stations on election day by its 40,000-strong observation mission showed which candidate had won, without naming the person. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

"A backroom deal that goes against the actual election results would be non-democratic", said Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy at the Enough Project, a US-based non-governmental organisation working on conflict. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside. "Only Martin Fayulu or Felix Tshisekedi's names can be accepted".

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

The long delay sparked blunt warnings from inside and outside the DRC, but also coincided with an apparent overture to Kabila from opposition leaders.

Some Congolese have said Tshisekedi lost support by splitting the opposition.

Corruption fighter Mr Fayulu finished second in the vote.

"I deplore all the disorder", Tshisekedi said.

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