KINSHASA (Reuters) – Supporters of Congo’s president-elect celebrated an unlikely win on Thursday, but the runner-up denounced a fix and France, Belgium and the Catholic Church all cast doubt on the results.
The electoral commission (CENI) announced around 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, 55, had won the Dec. 30 vote, edging out another opposition candidate, businessman Martin Fayulu.
Fayulu called the results an “electoral coup” engineered by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to deny him the presidency.
Anger over the results, and particularly the Fayulu camp’s suspicions that Tshisekedi won by cutting a power-sharing deal with Kabila, could cast a cloud over what is meant to be Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence.
Tshisekedi’s camp has acknowledged contact with Kabila’s representatives since the election but said they were aimed at ensuring a peaceful transition and denied a deal.
Fayulu can appeal the results to Congo’s constitutional court but has not yet indicated whether he will.
Tshisekedi’s win raises questions over the future of Kabila, who has governed since his father’s assassination in 2001 and overstayed the official end of his mandate by two years.
But in the run up to the results, Tshisekedi said Kabila had nothing to fear should he come to power, comments analysts interpreted as efforts to reassure the president and his supporters that interests accumulated over two decades in power were not at risk.
Any escalation in the Fayulu camp’s rhetoric or actions risks igniting Congo’s cycle of unrest, particularly in the volatile eastern borderlands where he enjoyed strong support and dozens of militia groups are active.
It is unclear whether voting will ever be held in parts of eastern Congo where the election was delayed – disenfranchising more than 1.2 million people – due to concerns about Ebola and violence.
Tshisekedi’s margin over Fayulu was less than 700,000 votes, according to the official results.
Done Katch’ng up but want to read more? Read more here.