Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi has won the long-awaited presidential poll in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the electoral commission said Thursday, paving the way for the country’s first handover of power in 18 years.
“Having gained… 38.57 percent of the vote, Felix Tshisekedi is provisionally declared the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Corneille Nangaa, the head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI).
Shouts of joy erupted at the commission’s offices as the historic results were announced.
The DRC has been in the grip of a two-year-old crisis over the succession of President Joseph Kabila, who said last year he would step down after nearly two decades in power.
The candidate he hand-picked to succeed him, loyalist, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came third in the poll.
The other main opposition candidate, former oil executive Martin Fayulu — who was tipped as favourite in the few pre-election opinion polls — came second, official results showed.
According to the initial timetable set out by the CENI, the definitive results are due on January 15 with the swearing-in of the new president three days later.
The result could still be appealed in the Constitutional Court.
WHO IS TSHISEKEDI?
Tshisekedi, 55, hopes the elections will hand him the presidential prize that eluded his late father Etienne, who founded the DRC’s mainstream opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), in 1982.
Tshisekedi junior took the helm of the party after his father died in February 2017.
Known to his friends as “Fatshi,” he gained a Belgian diploma in marketing and communication and rose doggedly through the party ranks.
But he has never held high office or had management experience and is hobbled by the lack of his father’s charisma.
“Etienne was stubborn and proud,” says one observer of the country’s opposition.
“(But) Felix is more diplomatic, more conciliatory, more ready to listen to others.”
On November 11, Tshisekedi joined six other opposition leaders to rally behind a single unity candidate, Martin Fayulu, to take on Shadary.
But the deal was rejected by the party’s rank and file.
Tshisekedi and fellow opposition leader Vital Kamerhe swiftly abandoned the deal and ran on a joint ticket, effectively weakening and splitting the opposition.
A father of five, he attends the same Pentecostal church in Kinshasa as Fayulu.