Congolese election officials, rejecting independent assessments that a prominent opposition figure was the runaway winner of the recent presidential election, on Thursday bestowed victory on a candidate considered more acceptable to the departing President Joseph Kabila.
The decision dashed hopes that the Democratic Republic of Congo might experience its first undisputed transfer of power by the ballot box since independence six decades ago. And it was unclear how it would sit with the population.
Still, however malleable the declared winner, Felix Tshisekedi, may seem to Mr. Kabila, he was not his first choice. Mr. Kabila had backed a top aide to succeed him.
The election commission’s early-morning announcement amounted to a startling official admission that Mr. Kabila’s candidate had suffered a defeat so big that his government — in power for 18 years — could not simply hand him the presidency without risking widespread violence and international condemnation.
But Mr. Tshisekedi had not been seen as the top vote-getter; he was declared the victor on Thursday amid speculation that his campaign had reached some kind of a power-sharing agreement with the Kabila government.