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DR Congo election: Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi wins surprise victory

DR Congo election: Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi wins surprise victory

The influential Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 observers at all polling stations, said official results did not match its findings, and diplomats briefed on them said rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu won easily. Last week, the Catholic Church said their observations showed a clear victor, and many say that was Fayulu.

The Catholic Church has always been pressing for the departure of Kabila, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2001 and who has stayed in power as caretaker leader even though his second and final elected term ended in December 2016.

According to his statement on the results, Mahamat said that the, "takes cognizance" of the provisional results, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

"These results have nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box".

There are widespread concerns that a contested result could spark unrest.

In order to do so they must appeal to Congo's constitutional court, which has 10 days to hear and rule on any challenges.

It "may be a message that the publication (of the results) won't meet the expectations of the Congolese people", resident John Kabamba said.

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"If we find that the results of the catholic church are not the same as those of the electoral commission we will know there was a change of plan", said Stephanie Wolters at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. Long in the shadow of his father, the late opposition leader Etienne, he startled Congo a year ago by breaking away from Fayulu - the opposition's unity candidate - to stand on his own.

Tshisekedi, 55, is reported to have won seven million votes and Mr. Fayulu 6.4 million.

"How long are we going to negotiate results?" he asked. "(.) The Congolese people will never accept that his victory be stolen".

But pre-election studies had predicted an easy win for Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate.

Many Congolese had objected to Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.

"We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite of what we expected, " Le Drian told CNews.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told local RTBF broadcaster his country would bring up the matter at the United Nations Security Council.

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Democratic Republic of Congo's Union for Democracy and Social Progress party leader and presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi waves to the crowd during a campaign rally in Kinshasa, on December 21, 2018 in the courtyard of the party headquarter.

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 delayed results, almost two weeks after the December 30 vote, came after worldwide pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people.

He blamed the delay on opposition parties' insistence that results be counted by hand and not transmitted electronically via voting machines, which Congo used for the first time. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing. In a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country's 40 million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

Western pressure likely has little effect, however, as Congo's government has rejected what it calls interference and expelled the European Union ambassador days before the vote.

Felix's profile rose after his father died in 2017, soon after negotiating the terms of a transition period when Kabila refused to step down at the official end of his mandate the previous year.

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