Tshisekedi wins DR Congo Presidential Election

● Tshisekedi beats outgoing president Kabila’s protege Shadary

● Victory may mark first democratic transfer of power since 1960

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the surprise winner of last month’s presidential election.

The win confounds expectations that former President Joseph Kabila’s protege, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, would become leader of the world’s biggest cobalt producer. If the Constitutional Court validates the result, it’ll mark the first transfer of power by the ballot box since Congo gained independence from Belgium nearly six decades ago.

The prospective change of administration may spur optimism among mining investors including Glencore Plc and Barrick Gold Corp. that they can reverse elements of a fiercely disputed new industry code that raised royalties and added taxes.

Tshisekedi, 55, garnered 7.05 million votes, the electoral commission, known as CENI, said in provisional results broadcast on state television Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi “is provisionally proclaimed elected as president,” CENI President Corneille Nangaa said.

Rival opposition leader Martin Fayulu got 6.37 million ballots, while Shadary obtained 4.36 million, he said.

The Kabila family has led Congo for more than 20 years. The outgoing president succeeded his father in 2001 after he was assassinated before winning elections in 2006 and again five years later. Barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, Kabila handpicked Shadary, a loyalist former interior minister, to run for the ruling Common Front for Congo coalition, fueling suspicions the current head of state intended to retain considerable influence over his preferred successor.

Pre-election polling by New York University’s Congo Research Group recorded Shadary trailing the opposition by a large margin — with Tshisekedi topping a survey in October and Fayulu commanding a strong lead two days before the vote.

Fayulu criticized CENI Tuesday for failing to announce provisional results on Jan. 6 as scheduled and warned against “any attempt to twist the truth of the ballot box.”

Tshisekedi’s party has traditionally been strong in Kinshasa and the central Kasai region. He joined forces with Vital Kamerhe, the head of another major opposition party who came third in the 2011 election, in an effort to boost his popularity in eastern Congo. Kamerhe is set to serve as Tshisekedi’s prime minister under the terms of their agreement.

The influential body that represents Congo’s Catholic bishops said Jan. 3 that results gathered at polling stations on election day by its 40,000-strong observation mission showed which candidate had won, without naming the person. The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying the Catholic group believed Fayulu, rather than Tshisekedi, won comfortably.

Shadary’s campaign and CENI accused the bishops of violating Congolese law and risking a popular uprising.

CENI released the results three days later than scheduled, prompting speculation about how the agency was handling the counting process. SYMOCEL, a group of Congolese civil society organizations which deployed 20,000 election observers, said in a report on Tuesday there had been major irregularities at the results-compilation centers, with numerous cases registered in Shadary’s home province of Maniema.

-[Bloomberg]

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