Opposition Takes Surprise Presidential Win in D.R. Congo, Prompting Fraud Claims

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Mr Tshisekedi, leader of Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, the main opposition party, was yesterday declared surprise victor of the presidential elections with 38 per cent or more than seven million votes against the more than six million votes garnered by Engagement for Citizenship and Development party's Martin Fayulu who came in the second place while Mr Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, backed by President Joseph Kabila, came in third place with more than four million votes.

Known to his friends as "Fatshi", he gained a Belgian diploma in marketing and communication and rose doggedly through the party ranks. However, he never took up his seat as he did not formally recognise his father Étienne's 2011 election defeat to Joseph Kabila.

"Today I am happy", Felix Tshisekedi told supporters.

After the Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission declared Tshisekedi the victor, the runner-up Martin Fayulu dismissed the outcome as an "electoral coup".

The election should mark the first peaceful transfer of power since the DRC became independent 59 years ago.

Tshisekedi, 55, is the head of country's oldest and largest opposition party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), founded by his father Etienne - a major Congolese political figure.

"How long are we going to negotiate results?" he asked.

As the lengthy results were read out on nationwide TV, police were deployed at strategic spots in the capital Kinshasa where, for the second evening running, many residents went home and locked their doors early. The influential catholic church, which posted 40,000 election observers, also said the result did not match its findings.

The United Nations has warned against any resort to violence.

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Shouts of joy erupted at the commission's offices as the historic results were announced.

"It is important that any challenge to the provisional results, including claims of inconsistencies with the verdict of the ballot box, be pursued peacefully, through avenues provided by the existing national legal framework, and political dialogue among all stakeholders", the statement quoted Faki as saying.

Tshisekedi won with 38.57 percent of more than 18 million ballots cast, Corneille Nangaa, the president of the election commission (CENI), told a news conference at 3 a.m. (09:00 p.m. EST, Jan. 9.) that seemed timed to avoid any immediate reaction in the streets.

Long in the shadow of his father, the late opposition leader Etienne, Mr Tshisekedi startled DR Congo past year by breaking away from the unified opposition candidate Mr Fayulu to stand on his own.

"We will never accept this nomination".

Many noted that Fayulu's campaign suffered significantly more harassment than Tshisekedi's, and that the latter's rhetoric towards erstwhile enemies underwent a dramatic change in recent days.

In the run-up to the results, Tshisekedi said Kabila had nothing to fear should he come to power.

"Mr Kabila can not stay and make an arrangement with someone who will not have any power". At least four people were reported killed in demonstrations in one eastern city, although much of the rest of the country appeared calm.

The election's supervisors had faced mounting pressure at home and overseas to publish the results of the December 30 poll after repeated delays stoked fears for the giant country's stability.

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