Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi wins DR Congo election

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi wins DR Congo election

Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's main opposition party, has been declared the surprise victor of the 30 December presidential election in the vast central African country.

Mr Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, had not been widely considered the leading candidate.

The son of late opposition leader Etienne, who pursued the presidency for many years, he startled Congolese shortly before the election by breaking away from an opposition effort to unite behind a single candidate.

The U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo had warned Americans to leave the country, as Congolese officials prepared to announce the results.

After last month's vote, internet and text-messaging services were shut down nationwide in a move that the government said was necessary to guard against the spread of unofficial results.

The announcement of a victory by opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu (who the Catholic Church has indicated was the winner) is unlikely, but would pose high risks of looting by military elements and a coup attempt in Kinshasa. The constitutional court has 14 days to validate them.

Kabila's choice of successor fuelled accusations that the long-time leader - concerned about possible retribution - would use Shadary to protect his interests after the vote.

The election may enable Congo to achieve its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960.

He also told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir that Kabila could be honoured for ushering in a peaceful transition.

Kabila has ruled since 2001 in the troubled nation rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world.

Tshisekedi "is provisionally proclaimed elected as president", CENI President Corneille Nangaa said. "This is the beginning of national reconciliation".

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Further pressure on CENI to reveal the election outcome came on Wednesday from South Africa and Zambia, DRC's neighbour to the south. The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying the Catholic group believed Fayulu, rather than Tshisekedi, won comfortably. Stephanie Wolters, analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter ahead of the announcement.

"You know that this proclamation is the fruit of results trafficked, invented and fabricated", Fayulu told reporters after the results were announced. "If the official result does not reflect the truth, there will be a crisis", he added, as a crowd of two dozen people at a newsstand nodded.

The United States, African Union, European Union and others have urged Congo's government to make sure the election results conform to the will of the people. Tshisekedi won the election amid concerns of vote-rigging. Anti-riot police with water cannon are outside the building.

How will Congolese citizens react?

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The pair had previously agreed that if they won, Kamerhe would become Tshisekedi's prime minister.

Congo on December 30 voted for a successor to departing President Joseph Kabila.

"We will react according to truth, there is no other option", he said, if the election results that are announced do not confirm with the church's findings.

His father Etienne founded the country's oldest and largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and went on to spend decades as the country's main opposition leader but died in February a year ago - with Tshisekedi junior taking over.

Some Congolese have said Tshisekedi lost support by splitting the opposition.

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.

"I deplore all the disorder", Tshisekedi said.

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