Leader of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress, UDSP, Felix Tshisekedi, has been announced winner of the presidential election in Democratic Republic, DR, of Congo.
President Joseph Kabila’s preferred candidate and flag bearer of the ruling party, Emmanuel Shadary, came a distant third at the poll.
Fifty-five-year-old Tshisekedi was not expected to win the election.
In the run-up to the landmark vote, speculation had mounted that Kabila would install Shadary as a placeholder president, while he ruled from the shadows until 2023 when he could rerun for the presidency.
According to the provisional results released by the country’s electoral commission, Tshisekedi defeated Martin Fayulu, his rival who had since rejected the outcome – describing it as having “nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box”.
If unchallenged, this would signal Congo’s first democratic transition of power since 1960 when the country gained independence.
Tshisekedi, son of late opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, will take over from President Kabila, who is stepping down after being in office for 18 years.
Addressing supporters at UDSP headquarters in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said Kabila is no longer a rival.
“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,” he said.
There are reports that the electoral process was marred by irregularities, and this, many fear may lead to an uprising between supporters of the major contenders.
Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence in 1960. In the early hours of Thursday the head of DR Congo’s National Electoral Commission (Ceni), Corneille Nangaa, said Tshisekedi had received 38.5% of the vote in the 30 December election and had been “provisionally declared the elected president”.
The full results were, with turnout reportedly 48%:
Felix Tshisekedi – 7 million votes
Martin Fayulu – 6.4 million votes
Emmanuel Shadary – 4.4 million votes