Congo Opposition Leader Is Surprise Winner of Presidential Vote

Counting the votes in DR Congo Africa's second largest country has been a mamoth task

The Congolese capital of Kinshasa is reported relatively quiet early Thursday morning as the nation's electoral commission waited until the wee hours to declare opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the provisional victor of last month's long-delayed presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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 almost six decades ago.

The son of late opposition leader Etienne, who pursued the presidency for many years, he startled Congolese shortly before the election by breaking away from an opposition effort to unite behind a single candidate. Speculation swirled this week that Kabila's government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a ruling party win.

With 7 million votes, or 38 percent, Tshisekedi outpaced Fayulu, another opposition frontrunner, who came in second with more than 6 million votes.

Voting regulations prohibit anyone but the electoral commission from announcing results.

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They would be deployed if needed to protect USA citizens and diplomatic facilities in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, he said.

Meanwhile the influential Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 observers during the vote, said that it knows who won the election. Anti-government protests in towns and cities are likely under such delays, but of smaller size and duration than would probably occur in response to the (less likely) immediate announcement of a victory by Kabila's chosen successor or the outright invalidation of the 30 December results, which would respectively pose high and very high protest and riot risks.

Candidates can appeal results if they wish and the final decision will be announced by the constitutional court.

"There's no spirit of revenge", said Tshisekedi.

Two of the diplomats said other observation missions, including one conducted by the African Union and one by the Southern African Development Community, also shows that Fayulu received the most votes, the AP reports. Kabila has promised a peaceful transition of power.

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"These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box", Fayulu is said to have told Radio France International.

The election outcome was initially expected to be announced on Sunday. The Kinshasa lawmaker and businessman said his coalition would release its own figures if the announced results don't conform to the will of the Congolese people.

The head of the electoral commission, Corneille Nangaa, earlier said that the results from a number of polling stations still needed to be counted.

How will Congolese citizens react?

. 80 per cent of the results had been compiled so far, according to a source at the electoral commission who spoke to RFI. He is known as the "people's soldier" for leading protests against President Kabila.

Already delayed by two years, the announcement of results was postponed by a further week to allow more time to overcome logistical challenges in a country of 80 million inhabitants spread over an area the size of western Europe with nearly no paved roads.

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