DR Congo election: Defeated candidate vows legal challenge

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The electoral commission (CENI) announced around 3.00 a.m. (0200 GMT) that opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, 55, had won the December 30 vote, edging out another opposition candidate, businessman Martin Fayulu.

Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the largest opposition party, has been declared the victor of the long-delayed presidential election to replace Joseph Kabila. CENI has come under pressure from the DRC Catholic Church's National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (Conférence Épiscopale Nationale du Congo: CENCO), which mounted its own 40,000-strong electoral observer mission and parallel vote tabulation operation.

Congo's powerful Catholic Church has said it found a clear victor from data compiled by its 40,000 observers deployed to all polling stations.

Losing candidate businessman Mr Fayulu and ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary can contest the results.

"Outgoing President Joseph Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila's control of the electoral commission", Robert Besseling, a Johannesburg-based executive director at business risk consultancy Exx Africa, said in an emailed note.

Nshole urged DRC's population to peacefully await a 14-day constitutional court validation phase, saying those wanting to challenge the result should use legal means.

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If the church found Fayulu won, "how will population react?"

Tshisekedi, who received 38 percent of the vote according to official results, had not been widely considered the leading candidate.

The difference between Tshisekedi and Fayulu in official results was some 684,000 votes.

The delayed results come after worldwide pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people.

Foreign leaders reacted cautiously to the outcome of DR Congo's presidential election Thursday, with many choosing not to congratulate the man declared victor and appealing for disputes to be settled peacefully. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing.

Over the past week, the United States and other governments have called on the electoral commission to publish correct election results.

Congolese riot police takes position near the electoral commission building in Kinshasa, Congo, Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019.

The government has cut internet service since the day after the election to prevent speculation on social media about who won, and blocked some radio stations.

Many Congolese had objected to Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.

But in the run-up to the results, Tshisekedi said Kabila had nothing to fear should he come to power, comments analysts interpreted as efforts to reassure the president and his supporters that interests accumulated over two decades in power were not at risk. "They have stolen the Congolese people's victory and the people will never accept that", said Fayulu, an oil tycoon whose platform had been focused on tackling corruption in the former Belgian colony.

Felix Tshisekedi was declared the victor of the country's long-delayed elections.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his outspoken father.

Mr Tshisekedi is the son of late opposition leader Etienne but is relatively unknown and untested. He was less visible in campaigning than Fayulu and did not make himself available to reporters after the vote.

Tshisekedi, 55, pledged to work closely with Kabila.

Results of parliamentary elections, which were held alongside the presidential vote, are expected on Friday evening and the pro-Kabila majority are already claiming to have won the house.