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Congo Presidential Election Opens Under Communications Blackout - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso votes at a polling station in Brazzaville, Congo,

Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso votes at a polling station in Brazzaville, Congo,

Brazzaville- Under a government-imposed communications blackout, voting in a presidential election in Congo Republic opened on Sunday by the time long-time leader Denis Sassou Nguesso pursued to extend his rule over the Central African oil producer.
Facing eight candidate-opponents including retired General Jean-Marie Mokoko, who is considered the strongest challenger, Sassou Nguesso is infact strongly favored to win the polls.

By the time the voting process was taking place, the government banned the use of motor vehicles nationwide, also police checkpoints were placed across the capital Brazzaville to confirm that those circulating had obtained special permission.
Returned to his homeland back from Paris to cast a vote in the poll, Damien Kiongazi said, “I want this to go well. I don’t want war, which is often what happens after these elections.”

Noting that voters lined up outside a polling station in Brazzaville’s Mafouta neighbourhood ahead of the scheduled 7 AM (0600 GMT) start time for the election however they were handled more than two hours of delays.

Sassou Nguesso re-claimed power in 1997 after a short-lived civil war where he then went on to win disputed elections in 2002 and 2009; noting that he had ruled from 1979 to 1992, when he lost an election. He pushed through constitutional changes in October to remove term and age limits that would have prevented him from standing again.

He is well credited by those who support him for reestablishing stability and developing the country’s infrastructure. From the other side critics, however, say Congo’s oil wealth has enriched small elite. Around half of the population of 4.5 million lives in poverty. The polls will be observed thoroughly by other leaders in Africa – notably in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo – where a number of long-serving presidents are seeking to stay on beyond constitutionally mandated term limits.

Mobile phone companies MTN Congo and Airtel Congo had been ordered to interrupt service on March 20 and 21 stated a government official on Saturday, “for reasons of security and public tranquility”. Considering that the operation would hamper the work of elections monitors, the opposition criticized the decision.

The latter said on Friday it had documented preparations for widespread vote rigging, including voters registered at multiple polling sites, individuals with multiple voter cards and the distribution of voter cards to non-citizens.

However, the government rejected the accusations, claiming its opponents were preparing the ground for post-election chaos. The opposition in turn denied it was stirring violence but cautioned that people would not accept a tainted result. At the polling station in Mafouta, in southern Brazzaville’s opposition stronghold, some of those waiting to cast their ballots on Sunday morning complained that the posted voter list contained the names of people who had died years before.

“I’m not confident. I see already that our voices are being stolen. The real results will not be given,” said voter Boclelon Ganga, 28, as he smoked a cigarette waiting for voting to begin.

Former colonial power France criticised the conditions of October’s constitutional referendum, saying they did not allow an accurate assessment of the result. And the European Union has decided not to send a mission to observe Sunday’s vote.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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