Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo has been named in provisional results as the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election.
DRC’s electoral commission declared him winner on Thursday, nearly two weeks after the December 30 vote.
The victory was immediately challenged by opposition candidate Martin Fayulu who said the results were “rigged, fabricated, and invented”.
Faluyu called for the release of the name “of the person who really was our people’s choice.”
According to the official results, Tshisekedi won with 38 percent for the votes, Fayulu received 34 percent, and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the candidate of current President Joseph Kabila’s party, got 23 percent.
However, the Catholic Church — which had some 40,000 observers at polling stations and is a powerful voice in the DRC — contradicted the official result, declaring Fayulu the winner with 47 percent of the vote and Tshisekedi with 24 percent.
If the election results stand, it would be the first democratic transition of power since the DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Tshisekedi is the 55-year-old father of five and the son of the late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi who founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (known by its French initials UDPS) in 1982.
For decades, Etienne Tshisekedi was a feared rival of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko who died months after being ousted in 1997, and later of Presidents Laurent and Joseph Kabila.
Under his leadership, the UDPS became the country’s largest opposition party, but he never succeeded in winning office.
His legal challenge to the official results of the 2011 presidential election, which showed he won 32% of the vote to Joseph Kabila’s 49%, failed.
The veteran opposition leader died in 2017 leaving a big question over who would succeed him.
His former chief of staff Albert Moleka told the BBC that his son was not necessarily the obvious choice: “Etienne Tshisekedi was very vocal about his scepticism towards his son’s abilities. He was very demanding of his son.
“He was someone who fought for the people and so he wasn’t going to give his son a free pass.”
Mr Moleka said it was the presidential hopeful’s mother, Marthe Kasalu, who pushed for the son to become the leader.
In March last year, he was voted in as the party’s new head and became its de facto candidate for the presidential elections.
According to the BBC, Mr Tshisekedi did not simply cash in on his name, he has been immersed in politics from a very young age, and had to work his way through the party.