DRC opposition chief wins vote as rival, church cry foul

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Mr Tshisekedi, leader of Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, the main opposition party, was yesterday declared surprise victor of the presidential elections with 38 per cent or more than seven million votes against the more than six million votes garnered by Engagement for Citizenship and Development party's Martin Fayulu who came in the second place while Mr Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, backed by President Joseph Kabila, came in third place with more than four million votes.

Although he holds a Belgian diploma in marketing and communication, he has had little political or managerial experience with some detractors even suggesting his diploma is not valid.

Mr Kabila appears to have negotiated with Mr Tshisekedi to prevent anti-corruption crusader Mr Fayulu from winning, diplomats and observers said.

He took over from his assassinated father Laurent in 2001.

As a young adult, Felix Tshisekedi was forced to live in internal exile in his father's native Kasai province until the then-government of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko allowed him to leave for Belgium in 1985.

Mr Fayulu, however, denounced the results as "an electoral coup", as reported by Radio France International.

Mr. Tshisekedi, 55, is the son of a prominent opposition leader, Étienne Tshisekedi, and inherited the leadership of his father's opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, after his father's death in 2017. "Today we should no longer see him as an adversary but rather as a partner for democratic change in our country", he told supporters.

A father of five, Tshisekedi goes to the same Pentecostal church as Fayulu in Kinshasa, the capital.

"We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite to what we expected", French Foreign Minister Yves le Drian urged.

Many analysts have warned that an implausible or rigged election could trigger an eruption of violence in Congo's streets.

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The announcement of an opposition win was a shock as many had expected the results to be stacked in Shadary's favour, prompting heavy global pressure on Kinshasa to respect the wishes of the electorate.

On November 11, Tshisekedi joined six other opposition leaders to rally behind a single unity candidate, Martin Fayulu, to take on Kabila's handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The global broadcaster also said DRC's "influential Catholic Church, which posted 40,000 observers to monitor the election, issued a statement on Thursday saying the result given by the electoral commission did not correspond with its own findings".

He further said: "To all those who learned of the truth of the ballot boxes, especially to the Congo's National Bishops' Episcopal Conference, CENCO, and the Church of Congo, LCC, through your historical observations, we ask you to reveal to the Congolese people and to the whole world the name of the person who really was our people's choice".

Election chief Corneille Nangaa declared Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57% of the vote, just ahead of Fayulu with 34.8%.

Kabila and Tshisekedi "have an interest in meeting to prepare a peaceful and civilised transfer of power", said UDPS Secretary General Jean-Marc Kabund. "They have stolen the Congolese people's victory and the people will never accept that".

According to the initial timetable set out by the CENI, the definitive results are due on January 15 with the swearing-in of the new president three days later.

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

Bloody clashes marred elections in 2006 and 2011, and two wars between 1996 and 2003, drawing in armies from around the region, claimed millions of lives.