Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the winner of the long-delayed presidential election, the electoral commission announced early on Thursday January 10th, to the surprise of many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging.
According to AP, Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, or 38%, had not been widely considered the leading candidate. He is the son of late veteran opposition leader Etienne, who pursued the presidency for many years but was never able to win.
The election may enable Congo to attain its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. Tshisekedi, 55 years old, is set to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the volatile, poverty-stricken nation with an iron fist since 2001. He is barred from serving three consecutive terms, but during more than two years of election delays many Congolese feared he would find a way to stay in office.
"This is the coronation of a lifetime," the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens Mikindo, said shortly after the announcement that his candidate had won, above the cheers at party headquarters. "This is the beginning of national reconciliation."
It was not immediately clear whether opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who had pushed hard for Kabila to leave power and vowed to clean up Congo's widespread corruption, will contest the results after leading in polling. The constitutional court has 14 days to validate the results. Fayulu received more than 6 million votes, or 34%.