Congo Opposition Leader Tshisekedi Clinches Surprise Win in Presidential Election

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Exuberant supporters of Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi celebrated his surprise win in the presidential election on Thursday after waiting for hours to hear the results.

Repeated delays in holding the election sparked deadly violence in the vast and poor nation, but Tshisekedi struck a conciliatory tone after his victory, urging the public to view long-term leader Joseph Kabila as a "partner of democratic change". However, he never took up his seat as he did not formally recognise his father Étienne's 2011 election defeat to Joseph Kabila.

He suggested that Mr. Tshisekedi may have been declared the victor as a result of a bargain with Mr. Kabila, perhaps because he has wavered in his opposition to the government in the past.

Fayulu, who has denounced the result as an "electoral coup", is not a "fils de" ("son of") like Tshisekedi and many other dynastic politicians across the continent.

The election should mark the first peaceful transfer of power since the DRC became independent 59 years ago.

Tshisekedi is the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), DRC's oldest and largest opposition party.

As the lengthy results were read out on nationwide TV, police were deployed at strategic spots in the capital Kinshasa where, for the second evening running, many residents went home and locked their doors early.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian demanded clarity on results "which are the opposite to what we expected".

Many analysts have warned that an implausible or rigged election could trigger an eruption of violence in Congo's streets.

Nangaa said Tshisekedi had received more than 7 million votes, compared to about 6.4 million for Fayulu and about 4.4 million for Kabila's hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

"France did challenge the declared result, saying it was" not consistent with the true results".

African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has advised all concerned stakeholders in the just ended presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo to act in a way that consolidates democracy and preserves peace in the country.

Election chief Corneille Nangaa declared Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57% of the vote, just ahead of Fayulu with 34.8%. "They have stolen the Congolese people's victory and the people will never accept that".

The announcement of an opposition win was a shock because many had expected the results to be stacked in Shadary's favour, prompting heavy worldwide pressure on Kinshasa to respect the wishes of the electorate while the mammoth ballot count was under way.

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

While Tshisekedi's camp has acknowledged that he met with Kabila on several occasions, it has said these meetings were convened to ensure a smooth transition of power rather than to strike a pre-election deal.

"Mr Kabila can not stay and make an arrangement with someone who will not have any power".

The church itself has so far only said that the official results did not reflect the data its observers collected from polling stations.

Bloody clashes marred elections in 2006 and 2011, and two wars between 1996 and 2003, drawing in armies from around the region, claimed millions of lives.