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Bishops hold key after Democratic Republic of Congo election

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Delaying of DRC election results announcement increases likelihood of extension of president's mandate to March

"The delay in releasing the results of the elections can lead to suspicions and compromise peace and stability of the country", South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu said in a joint statement.

Fayulu immediately rejected the result.

Fayulu described the official results as an "electoral coup".

The choice fuelled accusations that Kabila - concerned about possible retribution - would use Shadary to protect his interests after the vote.

The runner-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo's long-awaited presidential poll Martin Fayulu on Thursday denounced the results as an "electoral coup".

The election may enable Congo to achieve its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960.

Domestic election observers say they witnessed serious irregularities on election day and during vote tallying, although a regional observer mission said the election went "relatively well".

"Some observers have suggested that President Joseph Kabila's government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a win" for Shadary, the AP reported.

The UDPS also warned that the commission could be delaying the announcement of the December 30 election results in a bid to manipulate the outcome.

Scores of people in the capital, Kinshasa, danced after the election results were announced long after midnight, but observers waited to see how other Congolese would respond, especially after Fayulu this week warned that the results were "not negotiable".

The other main opposition candidate, former oil executive Martin Fayulu - who was tipped as the favourite in the few pre-election opinion polls - also sounded a conciliatory tone on Tuesday.

After the 30 December vote, internet and text-messaging services were shut down nationwide in a move that the government said was necessary to guard against the spread of unofficial results. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside.

In a pre-dawn announcement, the election commission named Tshisekedi, son of the country's late veteran opposition leader, as provisional victor of the bitterly-contested December 30 vote - a surprise result his main opponent promptly denounced as an "electoral coup".

The electoral commission started deliberating and evaluating presidential election results on Tuesday evening, after which it will announce the victor. The constitutional court then has seven days to consider disputes before results are final.

Last week CENCO, which deployed more than 40,000 observers to monitor the elections, said it knew who had won the vote but did not reveal who it was, instead urging CENI to publish the results "in keeping with truth and justice". The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The son of late opposition leader Etienne, who pursued the presidency for many years, he surprised many last year by breaking away from an opposition effort to unite behind a single candidate. He is known as the "people's soldier" for leading protests against President Kabila.

Kabila is stepping down after 18 years in office and there were fears he would continue to rule behind the scenes if a rigged election saw victory for his handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Backed out of an opposition deal to have a unity candidate and ran on his own ticket with the backing of politician Vital Kamerhe.

Tshisekedi's win raises questions over the future of Kabila, who has governed since his father's assassination in 2001 and overstayed the official end of his mandate by two years.

Elected in 2006, Joseph Kabila secured another term in controversial elections in 2011.

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