Photograph — Japan Times

Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the winner of the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in what has been adjudged as a controversial decision. Tshisekedi, who is a candidate of the Cap for Change (CACH) coalition and the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the biggest opposition party in the DRC, was declared to have won the election 38.57 percent of total votes cast. This was announced by the country’s electoral commission (CENI)  president in the early hours for today to prevent any immediate backlash in the streets of Kinshasa.

However, there has been a backlash as many stakeholders in the election have expressed surprise at the eventual winner, and have asked for a review of the votes. Martin Fayulu Madidi, who placed second at the polls with 34.38 percent of votes, rejected the results outrightly, claiming that they were an “electoral coup”, and invited electoral observers to pressure the country’s electoral body to publish the real election results. “The results have nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box,” he told journalists after the announcement. Fayulu had been declared the winner of the presidential elections in DRC in an opinion poll in December, ahead of Tshiskedi, and the Kabila-backed Ramazani Shadary of the ruling coalition.

French Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also called for transparency regarding the polls, saying the announced winner was quite opposite what election monitors and observers said about the elections.  “We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite to what we expected…The Catholic Church of Congo did its tally and announced completely different results,” he told French media house, C NEWS. The Catholic Church has immense political influence in the DRC and even had thousands of observers in different polling units on election day. The Catholic Church had also declared Martin Fayulu as the winner, based on reports from its observers.

This presidential election is significant in many ways, chief of which is that it’s the DRC’s first democratic transition of power. Joseph Kabila has been president of the DRC since 2001 when he assumed the role ten days after his father and former president Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated. Laurent-Desire Kabila overthrew arguably one of Africa’s most notorious dictators Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, and since then the Kabila family ruled DRC politics. Joseph Kabila’s second term as president ended in December 2016, but due to some delay tactics, and rumors that he wanted a third term, Kabila’s refusal to step down as president was met with protests from opposition groups and the country’s citizens alike, culminating in protests in the capital Kinshasa in 2016 that led to the death of 17 people. The people of the DRC eventually prevailed on him after a two-year delay and elections then held in December 2018.

Hence, many concerns regarding the election have been based on the fear that the ruling party would concede if its candidate Ramazani Shadary didn’t win the elections; DRC became tenser when many opinion polls before the election declared Martin Fayulu the winner, with US president Donald Trump deploying 80 American soldiers to nearby Gabon over possible post-election violence in the DRC.

However, with the surprise announcement of Tshisekedi as the winner at the polls and amidst rumors that his party has agreed to a power-sharing agreement with Joseph Kabila who he described as a “partner in democratic change” after his win, this still looks like a win for the Kabila.  Fayulu had promised “to crack down on the pervasive networks of corruption that is at play in the country, something Kabila, his entourage and the country’s elite are probably fearful of”, but the chances of him being able to do that are slim.

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