Congo opposition leader Tshisekedi clinches surprise win in presidential election


FILE PHOTO: Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy ...
FILE PHOTO: Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and a presidential candidate, leaves after casting his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

Democratic Republic of Congo electoral commission on Thursday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the surprise winner of last month’s chaotic presidential election, but the runner-up dismissed the outcome as an “electoral coup”.

The result sets the stage for Congo’s first democratic transfer of power, but also a tense political standoff with the potential for the kind of violence that followed polls in 2006 and 2011 whose outcome was contested.

Vote tallies by Congo’s Catholic church (CENCO) showed second-placed opposition candidate Martin Fayulu as victor, according to two diplomats briefed on the findings.

Tshisekedi won with 38.57 percent of more than 18 million ballots cast, Corneille Nangaa, the president of the election commission (CENI), told a news conference at 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) that seemed timed to avoid any immediate reaction in the streets.

“Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo is declared the provisionally- elected president of Democratic Republic of Congo,” Nangaa said, to a mixture of cheers and gasps inside CENI headquarters.

In the Kinshasa neighborhood of Limete where Tshisekedi lives, thousands of people danced in the streets in celebration and cars slowed down and honked their horns.

Some chanted that Congo had “turned the page” on the Kabila era, which began in 1997 when Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent, led a rebellion that overthrew longtime leader Mobutu Sese Seko. Joseph took over in 2001 when Laurent was assassinated.

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