Opposition's Tshisekedi wins historic DRC presidential poll

Clay Curtis
January 10, 2019

"If we find that the results of the catholic church are not the same as those of the electoral commission we will know there was a change of plan", said Stephanie Wolters at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

Several dozen anti-riot police gathered outside the commission before midnight as it met to discuss the results compiled so far.

If the Constitutional Court validates the result, it'll mark the first transfer of power by the ballot box since Congo gained independence from Belgium almost six decades ago.

Hours before the results were released, the Catholic organization urged CENI to honor "its duty to publish only results from the ballot boxes".

The DRC - a vast and poor country burdened by a history of bloodshed - has been in the grip of a two-year crisis over the succession of President Joseph Kabila, who said last year he would finally step down after almost two decades as leader.

Fayulu, who led in the polling, received 6.3 million votes and Shadary received 4.4 million.

The powerful religious institution deployed 40,000 election observers and is considered one of Congo's most influential and trusted institutions.

Campaign groups on Wednesday had called for the immediate release of the results and told people "to be prepared to go out onto the streets in massive numbers" if the outcome failed to accurately reflect the vote.

Election observers reported a number of irregularities during the vote and the opposition alleged it was marred by fraud.

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"I am serene", the church's secretary general, the Rev. Donatien Nshole, told The Associated Press in an interview, responding to the commission's accusation that it violated regulations. "We want the same".

Already delayed by two years, the announcement of results was postponed by a further week to allow more time to overcome logistical challenges in a country of 80 million inhabitants spread over an area the size of western Europe with nearly no paved roads.

In a conference last week, the Church's bishops said that it knew the identity of the victor and demanded that CENI publish accurate results. "The truth is stubborn", he said.

The presidents of South Africa and Zambia are urging Congo's electoral commission to "speedily" complete vote-counting and announce the delayed results of the December 30 presidential election.

If confirmed, Mr Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence.

Nangaa has blamed the delay in announcing results on the opposition's insistence on manual counting. The machines were the focus of much concern, with the opposition and observers saying they could open the door to manipulating results.

State television is in place to broadcast the results.

The party behind the other top opposition candidate, Tshisekedi, said it suspects the electoral commission to be working in concert with Congo's ruling party under "purely political motivations".

Nonsense, said the spokesman for the ruling coalition, Andre-Alain Atundu Liongo, who rejected the idea that the delay was in its favor.

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