Congo Republic to Vote as President Seeks to Extend 18-Year Rule

  • Referendum last year enabled Sassou Nguesso to run again
  • Oil revenues account for more than half of nation's GDP

President Denis Sassou Nguesso is expected to extend his 18-year rule in the Republic of Congo’s elections on Sunday.

Eight other candidates are vying for the presidency of the oil-producing Central African nation, including a former armed forces chief of staff, Jean-Marie Mokoko, and Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, who led protests against a referendum last year that enabled Sassou Nguesso to run for a third consecutive term.

As many as 2.1 million voters are eligible to cast a ballot, or slightly less than half the country’s 4.5 million population. The government completed a census earlier this year that revised the figure upward from 1.8 million voters.

“Sassou Nguesso is likely to win re-election, in large part because the ruling Parti Congolais du Travail has controlled state institutions and patronage networks for the last few decades,” said Cailin Birch, a political analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Opposition parties have shown an unprecedented degree of co-ordination in the lead-up to the election, illustrated by the sizable protests organized in October. However, their reach is still limited.”

Opposition Vote

While the opposition boycotted the October referendum in which 93 percent of voters favored changing the constitution, it will participate in Sunday’s election. Five parties told reporters in the capital, Brazzaville, earlier this month that they have set up a joint parallel commission meant to prevent electoral fraud, sending opposition supporters to the 5,000 polling stations nationwide.

Sassou Nguesso led the country from 1979 to 1992 and then returned to power at the end of a civil war in 1997. He was elected in 2002 and 2009 in votes whose results the opposition disputed.

The country is dependent on oil revenues, accounting for 56 percent of gross domestic product and 69 percent of revenue in 2014. French oil major Total is among the companies investing in offshore oil projects.

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