Supporters of the Congolese opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu wear the candidate's electoral poster, outside the venue of a press conference of the party campaign director in Kinshasa, on Dec 27, 2018. (MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
KINSHASA — Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has become the clear favourite to win Democratic Republic of Congo's long-delayed election on Sunday, with the government-backed candidate trailing in third place, according to a new poll.
Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, on 23%, and the ruling party's Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary on 18%
Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, was little known when he was picked as the joint candidate of an opposition coalition in November, but extensive campaigning, including in Ebola-hit eastern regions, has since boosted his profile.
The latest election poll by a New York-based research group showed Fayulu leapfrogging from third place in October to the top spot with 44 percent support. He was ahead of the former frontrunner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, on 23 percent, and the ruling party's Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary on 18 percent.
"The polls reveal an electorate eager for change. A large majority supports the opposition," Congo Research Group (CRG), which commissioned the polling on which the survey was based, said in a statement.
"Fayulu ... is the clear favorite to win elections if they are free and fair," it said in a statement.
Fayulu said in an interview on Thursday that allegedly up to 5 million of Congo’s 40 million voters won’t be able to cast ballots on Sunday, claiming that voting machines had yet to be delivered to some areas. One election official has said machines have to be carried on the heads of porters through almost impenetrable bush to some polling stations.
The opposition has repeatedly expressed concern over the authorities' handling of the election, meant to bring about the first democratic transition of power in the vast, mineral-rich Central African country.
Congo President Joseph Kabila said on Thursday that “there is no further reason” to prevent Sunday’s presidential election after two years of delays, but he blames a deadly Ebola outbreak for the last-minute decision to keep an estimated 1 million voters from the polls.
The voting is delayed in Beni and Butembo — but not in other communities with confirmed Ebola cases.
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