Felix Tshisekedi
The first 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 protégé 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 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 Roman Catholic bishops that said that results gathered at polling stations during the December 30 vote by its 40000 observers showed a clear winner, without naming the person.

The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying that the Catholic monitoring 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 programme at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

“We have 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.

If the court confirms his victory, he will inherit an economy that’s been buffeted by slowing growth since a commodity-price crash in 2014.

It expanded fivefold under outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s 18-year rule as a tiny elite amassed large fortunes while most of Congo’s 80 million people live in grinding poverty.

He’ll also face ongoing insurgencies by more than 100 militia groups in the mineral-rich east of the country that’s also in the grip of an Ebola outbreak.

Congo accounts for two-thirds of global production of cobalt, a metal used in rechargeable batteries, and has deposits of gold, diamonds, tin, copper and coltan, an ore that contains a metal used in cellphones.

The prospective change of administration may spur optimism among mining investors that they can reverse elements of a new industry code that raised royalties and added taxes.

Symocel, a group of Congolese civil society organisations which sent 20 000 election observers, said on Tuesday there had been major irregularities at the results-compilation centres.

Tshisekedi would owe a debt to Kabila because the president still wielded control over the electoral commission, said Robert Besseling, a Johannesburg-based executive director at business risk consultancy Exx Africa. Bloomberg