Despite the election commission's declaration that Felix Tshisekedi won, vote tallies compiled by the Democratic Republic of Congo's Catholic Church contradict the official results, indicating another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, won most votes.

Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and a presidential candidate, casts his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on December 30, 2018.
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and a presidential candidate, casts his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on December 30, 2018. (Reuters)

The Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) electoral commission on Wednesday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi winner of the presidential election, as the vast country braces for possible protests over alleged rigging.

Vote tallies compiled by the DRC's respected Catholic Church contradict official presidential results, according to two diplomats.

An observer mission from the Church's bishops conference (CENCO) told diplomats that its own tallies showed another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, winning.

TRT World's Jacob Brown has more.

Fayulu denounced the results as "rigged, fabricated and invented," saying they did "not reflect the truth of the ballots." He called on the people to "protect [his] victory."

Fayulu also called on the Catholic Church to release the results it got from its team of 40,000 observers who recorded voting tallies posted at each of the polling centres. Last week, the Catholic Church said their observations showed a clear winner, but did not name who it was.

Several diplomats briefed on the matter confirmed to The Associated Press that the figures compiled by the Catholic Church showed that Fayulu won an absolute majority of the votes. Two diplomats also said that all major observation missions, including from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, showed similar results with Fayulu the winner.

France and Belgium also cast doubt on the results.

For more on this story, TRT World spoke with DRC expert Kris Berwouts.

The discrepancy sets the stage for a possible standoff between the Congolese government and the Church, which is considered one of the DRC's most influential and trusted institutions.

Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, had not been widely considered the leading candidate. 

Some observers have suggested that President Joseph Kabila's government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a win for ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, whom Kabila endorsed. Shadary received more than 4 million votes.

Constitutional crisis?

It is not immediately clear how Fayulu will contest the results. Losing candidates can contest Tshisekedi's victory before the DRC's constitutional court, which has 10 days to hear and rule on any challenges, and 14 days to validate the results.

Tshisekedi is the son of the legendary Etienne Tshisekedi, who led opposition to three successive presidents over 35 years. Felix's profile rose after his father died in 2017, soon after negotiating the terms of a transition period when Kabila refused to step down at the official end of his mandate the previous year.

Any widespread perception the election has been stolen could set off a destabilising cycle of unrest, particularly in the volatile eastern borderlands where Fayulu enjoyed some of his strongest support.

Kabila has ruled since 2001 in the troubled nation rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world. This could be the DRC's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies