DRC electoral board declares opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi winner of presidential vote

The electoral commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi winner of the country’s long-delayed presidential election. The result, announced early on Thursday, is set to usher in the first electoral transfer of power in 59 years of independence in the DRC.

The outcome comes as a shock to many who believe result of the election was being delayed to ensure President Joseph Kabila’s handpicked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, wins. On the other hand, it came as a shock to supporters of outspoken opposition candidate Martin Fayulu who expected the former business executive to win. The New York Times reported that a senior Western official and a presidential adviser had spoken to church officials on condition of anonymity, that Fayulu was leading government favourite Shadary by nearly 30 points. The Catholic Church in vote tallies compiled by its observers also said Fayulu had a clear lead. Also, pre-election polls had given Fayulu a healthy lead, at least 20 points ahead of Tshisekedi, head of the DRC’s main opposition party.

The expected playbook from Kabila was to ensure Shadary wins but Fayulu’s supporters also fear that he might strike a power-sharing deal with Tshisekedi.

Fayulu, who was announced as runner-up in the poll had since rejected the results which he described as an “electoral coup”.

“These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box,” Fayulu told Radio France International. “It’s a real electoral coup, it’s incomprehensible.”

Felix Tshisekedi
Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress who was announced as the winner of the presidential elections; celebrate along the streets of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

“Where did the extra seven million votes come from [for Tshisekedi’s victory]? In 2019, we refuse that the victory of the people be stolen once more,” he said.

Election observers reported a number of irregularities during the vote.

According to results announced by Corneille Nangaa, head of the election commission at about 3am local time (02:00 GMT), Tshisekedi won with 38.57 percent of more than 18 million ballots cast, with over seven million votes to his name, compared to about 6.4 million for Fayulu and 4.4 million for Shadary.

Tshisekedi, 55, whose father Etienne, founded the opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress, through which he won the poll, has vowed to be the president of all Congolese.