Election runner-up Martin Fayulu rejects DR Congo poll result

Delaying of DRC election results announcement increases likelihood of extension of president's mandate to March

Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the victor of the long-delayed, disorganized and controversial presidential election, in an announcement by the electoral commission early Thursday that surprised many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging. And the losing candidate called the result a "robbery".

"The electoral victory of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is highly surprising, but the decision makes sense in the context of DRC's political dynamics", said Robert Besseling of EXX Intelligence, a risk consultancy on Africa.

The Church has always been pressing for the departure of Kabila, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2001, well beyond the limit of his second and final term in December 2016.

Several Congo analysts agreed that it appeared Kabila made a quiet agreement with Tshisekedi, saying Fayulu would have posed more of a threat.

Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu wipes his face before speaking to the press at his headquarters in Kinshasa, Congo, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.

However, runner-up Martin Fayulu, who is also an opposition candidate, has described it as an "electoral coup".

The influential Catholic Church had 40,000 observers at voting stations across the country.

"Ridiculous", he said. "These results have nothing to do with the truth of the polls".

Diplomatic sources said the tallies pointed to Fayulu as the victor, although the church via its Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) itself did not name a presumed victor.

People in the Democratic Republic of Congo are bracing themselves for the result of the presidential election, which was held on 30 December.

Thousands of supporters of Mr Tshisekedi took to the streets to celebrate but those who backed Mr Fayulu also came out in protest.

Fayulu has led anti-government demonstrations.

It was not clear whether Fayulu would dispute the election results in court.

On Tuesday, Nangaa told AFP his panel hoped to complete the count within "24 to 48 hours" and then set a time for announcing the results.

Felix Tshisekedi (right) and his running mate Vital Kamerhe campaign in Kinshasa, November 2018.

"One day we will even have to think of paying tribute to him (Kabila) for agreeing to withdraw", Tshisekedi said in an interview.

Any escalation in the Fayulu camp's rhetoric or actions risks igniting Congo's cycle of unrest, particularly in the volatile eastern borderlands where he enjoyed strong support and dozens of militia groups are active.

"Mr Kabila is a Congolese citizen".

It is seen by many Congolese as a moral voice in a country where politics has so often been tarnished by corruption, the BBC's Africa editor, Fergal Keane, reports.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an election is not a single decisive event, but just one part of a never-ending struggle to gain and keep power in which living to fight another day is as important as landing a knockout punch.

"It really seems that the declared results. are not consistent with the true results", Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNews television.

The presidents of South Africa and Zambia are urging Congo's electoral commission to "speedily" complete vote-counting and announce the delayed results of the December 30 presidential election.

Britain's foreign secretary said he was "very concerned about discrepancies" in Congo's results, adding that the United Nations Security Council would discuss the matter on Friday.

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