Congo voted Sunday in an election expected to give President Denis Sassou Nguesso a new seven-year term, but opponents called for a re-vote amid claims that the vast majority had boycotted the poll.
AFP - Congo voted Sunday in an election expected to extend President Denis Sassou Nguesso's long rule, but opponents said it should be re-run claiming the vast majority had boycotted the poll.
A statement from half of the 12 candidates up against Sassou Nguesso -- who has ruled the oil-rich but impoverished central African nation on and off since 1979 -- said less than 10 percent of eligible Congolese had actually voted.
"The Congolese people have clearly expressed themselves with this record abstention of more than 90 percent.
"By this strong rate of abstention, the Congolese who love justice and peace have expressed their rejection of this totalitarian, arrogant and corrupt regime," it said.
No official figure was immediately available but the electoral commission gave a vastly different version of events, telling AFP after the polls closed that turnout had been "massive" in parts of the country.
Opponents of the president however called on "national and international opinion to acknowledge the illegitimacy of Denis Sassou Nguesso," and demanded "a new presidential ballot organised with the agreement of all political forces in the country."
The text was signed by opposition candidates Mathias Dzon, Guy Romain Kinfoussia and Clement Mierassa as well as independent candidates Bonaventure Mizidy Bavoueza, Jean Francois Tchibinda Kouangou and Marion Matzimba Ehouango.
Sixty-six year old Sassou Nguesso is seeking a new seven-year term, supported by a wide grouping of parties in the Presidential Majority Assembly against 12 other candidates.
He has ruled Congo for almost 25 years, having held power from 1979 to 1992 and returned to the presidency in 1997 after a civil war.
Sassou Nguesso flashed a V sign for victory at the station where he cast his vote in the morning in the north of Brazzaville, but made no comment.
"Everything went well. There was a massive vote in the interior," election commission president Henri Bouka said after the close, adding that he was awaiting figures from the capital Brazzaville.
Bouka rejected allegations the electoral rolls had been stuffed with fake names and those of dead people, insisting they "are mostly honest."
The head of the Congolese Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), Roger Bouka Owoko, had on Saturday decried the "monstrous electoral register" which he said had been hugely inflated. "It's grotesque," he told reporters. "Congo cannot have so many electors."
The head of one polling station, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier turnout was the lowest he had seen in 17 years, with about 200 people voting out of 766 who were registered.
"During 2007 legislative elections, people were already in line at 9:00 am," said Gaston Nganga, head of another polling station in the Bacongo neighbourhood in the south of Brazzaville.
"But today at the same time, we had only 12 people out of 375 registered who have voted."
And one international monitor said on condition of anonymity: "There are more observers than voters."
Four of Sassou Nguesso's opponents, including his principal rival, former finance minister Dzon, called Friday for a boycott. Delegates for some candidates did not show up at polling stations when they were to open, as the law requires.
Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in 2002 in a vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards. African Union observers also cited fraud and irregularities in parliamentary and local elections in 2007 and 2008.
Observers of Sunday's vote included teams from the African Union and non-governmental organisations.
Despite an abundance of oil and timber, its principal exports, 70 percent of Congo's inhabitants still live below the poverty line.
Provisional election results were expected in three to four days, the electoral commission said. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held.
Some 2.2 million Congolese were officially eligible to vote out of a total population of 3.6 million.
Date created : 2009-07-13