Shock Win by DRC Opposition Leader Marred by Claims of Rigging

The first-ever win by an opposition presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being marred by claims by a rival that Felix Tshisekedi’s victory was the result of rigging by the electoral authorities.

Official results show Tshisekedi, 55, beat the protege of outgoing President Joseph Kabila, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, to become leader of the world’s biggest cobalt producer. Fayulu immediately described the outcome as “an unacceptable electoral fraud.” The Constitutional Court has the final word on the validity of the vote.

The public legitimacy of the election may ride on the verdict of the influential body representing Congo’s Catholic bishops that said that results gathered at polling stations during the Dec. 30 vote by its 40,000 observers showed a clear winner, without naming the person. The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying the Catholic group believed Fayulu, rather than Tshisekedi, won comfortably.

“If we find that the results of the Catholic Church are not the same as those of the electoral commission, we will know there was a change of plan,” said Stephanie Wolters, head of the peace and security research program at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. “Those of us who have followed this very closely have all been told that there were conversations behind the scenes between Tshisekedi and Kabila.”

The scion of long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died two years ago, he pledged to clamp down on rampant corruption, enhance security and promote development.