Hopes rise that DRC's elections are in home stretch

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Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the victor of the long-delayed, disorganized and controversial presidential election, in an announcement by the electoral commission early Thursday that surprised many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging.

His fellow opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the victor of the December vote by the electoral commission early Thursday morning.

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. Congo's first use of electronic voting machines in the December 30 election led to widespread concern that they could be used to manipulate results.

Fayulu alleges that longtime President Joseph Kabila engineered a backroom deal with the largely untested Tshisekedi to thwart anti-corruption efforts in a country with staggering mineral wealth.

Fayulu can appeal the results to Congo's constitutional court but has not yet indicated whether he will.

The defeated opposition candidate in DR Congo's presidential election has vowed to challenge the result in court.

But pre-election studies had predicted an easy win for Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate.

Election commission (CENI) president Corneille Nangaa, speaking around 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) at a news conference that appeared timed to avoid any immediate reaction in the streets, said Tshisekedi had won with 38.57 percent of the more than 18 million ballots cast.

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The result is certain to fuel further suspicion that Tshisekedi, who the last opinion polls before the election showed was well behind Fayulu, struck a power-sharing pact with Kabila.

The elections were held on 30 December, but CENI last weekend said provisional results, expected on Sunday, would be held up because of logistical problems. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

DR Congo has finally delivered the result of its much-delayed presidential vote, but the risk of an explosion of violence in this notoriously unstable nation remains high, analysts say. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing.

He was barred from running for another term under the constitution, and was supposed to step down two years ago, but the election was postponed after the electoral commission said it needed more time to register voters. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside.

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.

Some Congolese tired of Kabila's long rule, two turbulent years of election delays and years of conflict that killed millions of people said they simply wanted peace.

"Nobody knows how he would be able to cope with the position of president", Patta said of Tshisekedi.

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was named the victor on Thursday. He was less visible in campaigning than Fayulu and did not make himself available to reporters after the vote. "Those of us who have followed this very closely have all been told that there were conversations behind the scenes between Tshisekedi and Kabila". There were other organisations monitoring the elections, such as the Southern African Development Community, but it isn't clear yet if they agree or disagree with the electoral commission's provisional election results.

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