DRC main opposition to be led by founder’s son

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The Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition party on Saturday chose the son of its founder, a historic opposition figure, as its leader and presidential candidate in long delayed polls due at the end of the year.

The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) said Felix Tshisekedi, the son of former premier Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in Brussels in February last year, will “be the presidential candidate” for the December election, after a night-long meeting in the capital Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi was also chosen to lead the party with an overwhelming majority, getting 790 of the 803 votes.

“I am convinced that the UDPS will come to power this year to set things right in the country,” he said.

Elections for DRC’s head of state are due to take place on December 23 after two postponements that have stoked fears the sprawling, volatile state could spiral into war.

President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 and should have stepped down at the end of 2016 after he reached his two-term constitutional limit.

He is staying on under a constitutional clause that empowers the president to remain in office so long as his or her successor has not been elected.

Escalating tension over Kabila’s future has fed protests that have met with a crackdown that has claimed dozens of lives.

According to an opinion poll released Friday, 69 percent of the population do not trust the electoral commission to stage fair elections and 80 percent have a negative view of Kabila.

Sixty-six percent would vote for an opposition candidate, while Kabila would get only six percent if he sought to run again.

The survey, conducted by phone among a thousand people in 26 provinces, was organised by BERCI — the Bureau d’Etudes, de Recherches et de Consulting International — and the Congo Research Group at New York University.

The UDPS was set up in 1982 at the height of the dictatorship of former president Joseph-Desire Mobutu. It has been in opposition ever since, and experienced numerous internal divisions.