Instability risk high in DR Congo after vote result

Felix Tshisekedi Declared DRC Presidential Election Winner

Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was on Thursday declared victor of DR Congo's presidential election, but his victory was dismissed by the runner-up and questioned by the Catholic church, clouding the vote's legitimacy and hopes of peace.

Earlier Thursday the country's electoral commission presented a delayed provisional count, naming Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57 per cent of the vote.

Diplomatic sources said the tallies pointed to Fayulu as the victor, although the church via its Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) itself did not name a presumed victor.

Riot police were deployed in front of the commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa and along the city's main boulevard, as Congo braced for possible violence amid accusations of vote fraud and suspicions that the government was negotiating a power-sharing deal with one opposition candidate.

"Outgoing President Joseph Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila's control of the electoral commission", Robert Besseling, a Johannesburg-based executive director at business risk consultancy Exx Africa, said in an emailed note. Candidates have two days after the announcement to file challenges and the constitutional court has seven days to consider them before results are final.

Their meeting came amid growing concern that unrest could erupt in DR Congo, following tightly contested presidential elections on 30 December.

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

"We see that the result of the presidential election as published by CENI (the electoral commission) does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres", said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

Fayulu said the naming of Tshisekedi was the next in a line of stolen elections. She added, will the African Union "consider a power transfer "enough" or will they push for investigation and real result?"

The delayed results come after global pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

Burdened by a history of bloodshed, DRC has never had a peaceful handover of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

He was barred from running for another term under the constitution, and was supposed to step down two years ago, but the election was postponed after the electoral commission said it needed more time to register voters.

Results of parliamentary elections, which were held alongside the presidential vote, are expected on Friday evening and the pro-Kabila majority are already claiming to have won the house.

Many Congolese objected to Shadary, suspecting that he would allow Kabila to continue to rule from behind the scenes and protect his vast assets. Some said they would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections.

A two-year wait for a new leader is coming to an end in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but already a post-election crisis is brewing.

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.

By breaking away from the opposition coalition supporting Fayulu, Tshisekedi "positioned himself to bargain with the regime", Englebert wrote.

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