Kinshasa, Congo – Congolese opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been proclaimed the winner of the delayed match presidential election, the electoral commission announced Thursday morning to the surprise of many, while the vast country was preparing to possible manifestations on the alleged rigging. If it is confirmed, Tshisekedi will be the first opponent to win the victory since the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960, BBC News reports.
Tshisekedi, which has collected more than 7 million votes, or 38%, has not been widely regarded as the lead candidate and is relatively untested. Son of the late leader of the opposition Etienne, who held the presidency for many years, he surprised the Congolese shortly before the elections by breaking with the efforts of the opposition to unite behind a only candidate.
Some observers have suggested that President Joseph Kabila's government is seeking an agreement as hopes for victory by ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary have garnered more than 4 million votes, or 23 percent.
On Wednesday, riot police were deployed in the capital, Kinshasa, fearing that a disputed result could trigger acts of violence, reported Louise Dewast of BBC News in Kinshasa.
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the main Congolese opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and presidential candidate, shows a sign of victory after voting in a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, December 30, 2018.
KENNY KATOMBE / REUTERS
The elections at the end of last month were marred by allegations of voter fraud. The influence of the Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 observers during the vote and monitored the polls, warned that there had been irregularities.
The leaders of Zambia and South Africa urged those responsible to release the count quickly in order to avoid growing suspicion around the vote, which was tainted by allegations of fraud.
It was not clear right away whether opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who had strongly urged Kabila to step down and pledged to clean up widespread corruption in the Congo, will challenge the results after running the elections. . The constitutional court has 14 days to validate them. Fayulu received more than 6 million votes, or 34%.
The elections could allow the Congo to realize its first democratic and peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. Kabila promised a peaceful transition of power.
Kabila has been running the troubled country since 2001, rich in essential minerals for smartphones around the world, and has accumulated immense wealth. He is barred from filling three consecutive terms, but for more than two years late in the elections, many Congolese feared he could find a way to stay in office.
"This is the crowning point of a lifetime," said shortly after the announcement of the victory of his candidate, Rubens Mikindo, secretary general of Tshisekedi's party, over the applause at the headquarters of the left. "It's the beginning of national reconciliation."
Dozens of people in the capital, Kinshasa, danced after the announcement of election results long after midnight, but observers waited to see how other Congolese would react, especially after Fayulu warned this week that results were "not negotiable".
Fayulu, who had once tweeted that "When the wicked will reign, the mourning people", was supported by two personalities of the popular opposition prevented from running, ex-vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Governor Moise Katumbi. Fayulu, a former Exxon executive and lawmaker in Kinshasa, accused the government of obstructing his campaign by blocking thefts and attacking his supporters, which Kabila rejected.
Before the election results, militant groups urged people to "be ready to go down the streets massively" if the result does not correspond to "the truth of the polls".
Attention is now turning to the powerful Catholic Church of Congo, which said its 40,000 election observers in all polling stations had found a "net winner" but were prevented by the election rules from say more.
If the church found Fayulu won, "how will the population react?" Stephanie Wolters, an analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter before the announcement. She added that the African Union "will consider a transfer of power" sufficiently "or will it push for an inquiry and a concrete result?"
Late results occur after international pressure has been announced for the outcome to reflect the will of the people. The United States threatened to punish officials who rigged the vote.
The elections, largely peaceful, were tainted by the dysfunction of many voting machines used by the Congo for the first time. Dozens of polling stations opened late at night due to lack of equipment. And in a last minute decision, about 1 million of the country's 40 million voters were prevented from participating, with the electoral commission accusing a deadly outbreak of Ebola.
By challenge, tens of thousands of voters in one of the banned communities held their own ballots on polling day. Fayulu won easily.
The Congolese government cut Internet services the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media. As the electoral commission met this week, riot police settled outside.
Some Congolese tired of the long reign of Kabila, two years of turbulent delays in elections and years of conflict that killed millions of people said they simply want peace. Some said that they would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi would win, while recalling the violence that followed the previous disputed elections.
Many Congolese opposed Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule behind the scenes.
Now, the Congo faces a new little known leader after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his Frankish father.
On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the announcement of the results, supporters of Tshisekedi began celebrating at the headquarters of his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, with already printed calendars bearing the mention "Felix Tshisekedi, president".
Tshisekedi, 56, took the lead in Congo's most visible opposition party in early 2018, a year after his father's death.
Some Congolese said that Tshisekedi had lost his support by splitting the opposition. He was less visible in the campaign than Fayulu and did not make himself available to journalists after the vote. In voting, he accused the Congolese government of deliberately creating a mess to trigger a court challenge that could allow Kabila to extend his term.
"I regret all the mess," Tshisekedi said.