DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi: From opposition scion to provisional president-elect

Counting the votes in DR Congo Africa's second largest country has been a mamoth task

The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to see its first handover of power in 18 years after opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was Thursday named by election officials as the provisional victor of an historic presidential poll.

Tshisekedi, the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, won 38.57% of the more than 18-million votes, reported Reuters.

Shadary was competing against two main opposition candidates, businessman Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, the president of Congo's largest opposition party. Tshisekedi's camp has acknowledged contacts since the vote with Kabila's representatives but denies there has been any kind of deal.

Subsequently, activists and political opponents on Wednesday warned that they would take to the streets in protest if the victor was not announced, the Daily Nation reported.

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. The delay in announcing results has led some Congolese to suspect possible manipulation in favor of the ruling party.

Kabila, 47, has ruled since the 2001 assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, who overthrew long-serving dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

The result, announced early on Thursday, means the first electoral transfer of power in 59 years of independence in the DRC.

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The opposition was weakened by internal arguments and the exclusion by the electoral commission of two political heavyweights: Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former warlord, and Moïse Katumbi, a popular tycoon.

Mr Fayulu, a former oil tycoon, dismissed the results as "a true electoral coup", telling Radio France Internationale they had "nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box".

The election outcome was initially expected to be announced on Sunday.

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. Nevertheless, the elections finally went ahead in late December. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside. Its statement has been condemned by officials in Mr Kabila's government. Tshisekedi won the election amid concerns of vote-rigging.

The win confounds expectations that outgoing President Joseph Kabila's protege, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, would become leader of the world's biggest cobalt producer.

The 56-year-old Tshisekedi took over as head of Congo's most prominent opposition party in early 2018, a year after his father's death. As he cast his ballot, he accused Congo's government of deliberately creating a mess to spark a court challenge that could allow Kabila to extend his time in power.

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