The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DR Congo) opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was yesterday named the provisional winner of a long-awaited presidential poll paving the way for the nation’s first transfer of power in 18 years.
Repeated delays in holding the election sparked deadly violence, but Tshisekedi struck a conciliatory tone after his victory, urging the public to view long-term Congolese President Joseph Kabila as a “partner of democratic change.”
Runner-up candidate Martin Fayulu denounced the interim results as an “electoral coup.”
“These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box,” Fayulu told Radio France International.
The DR Congo has been in the grip of a two-year crisis over the succession of Kabila, who last year announced he would finally step down after nearly two decades in power.
Burdened by a history of bloodshed, the nation has never had a peaceful handover of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
“Having gained ... 38.57 percent of the vote, Felix Tshisekedi is provisionally declared the elected president of the Democratic Republic of [the] Congo,” Independent National Election Commission president Corneille Nangaa said.
Shouts of joy erupted at the commission’s offices as the results were announced early yesterday morning, journalists reported.
“I pay tribute to President Joseph Kabila and today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather a partner in democratic change in our country,” Tshisekedi told a crowd of supporters at the headquarters of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party.
The candidate Kabila handpicked to succeed him, former Congolese minister of the interior and security Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came third in the poll with 23.8 percent of the vote.
The other main opposition candidate, former oil executive Fayulu, took 34.8 percent, official results showed.
According to the initial timetable set out by the commission, the definitive results are due on Tuesday with the swearing-in of the new president three days later.
As the lengthy results were read out on nationwide television, police were deployed at strategic spots in Kinshasa where, for the second evening running, many residents went home and locked their doors early.
Tshisekedi is the head of country’s oldest and largest opposition party the UDPS, founded by his father, Etienne.
During his campaign he promised a return to the rule of law, to fight the “gangrene” of corruption and to bring peace to the east, but his detractors say that he lacks political and managerial experience.
Kabila, 47, was due to step down two years ago, but stayed in office, sparking widespread protests that were repressed at the cost of scores of lives.
His choice of successor fueled accusations that the leader — concerned about possible retribution — would use close ally Shadary to protect his interests after the vote.
Election supervisors had faced mounting pressure at home and abroad to publish the results of the Dec. 30 poll after delays stoked fears for the nation’s stability.
However, it also coincided with an apparent overture to Kabila from opposition leaders.
Campaign groups on Wednesday told people “to be prepared to go out onto the streets in massive numbers” if the outcome failed to accurately reflect the vote.
South Africa and Zambia joined the clamor to publish the results.
“The delay in releasing the results of the elections can lead to suspicions and compromise peace and stability of the country,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zambian President Edgar Lungu said in a joint statement.
In the lead-up to the results, the opposition hinted at a rapprochement.
“There’s no spirit of revenge,” Tshisekedi told Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
Kabila and Tshisekedi “have an interest in meeting to prepare a peaceful and civilized transfer of power,” UDPS secretary-general Jean-Marc Kabund said this week.
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