The Independent National Electoral Commission (ISEC) of Congo has announced that incumbent President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has taken a 67% lead in votes counted so far from the March 20 polls.
Addressing the media in the capital Brazzaville, Chairman of ISEC, Henry Bouka disclosed that the 67% result was based on votes counted in 72 out of the 111 districts counted.
The results, he was quick to add, did not include that of Pointe Noire, commercial capital and opposition stronghold.
Présidentielle au Congo: Sassou en tête du premier tour de la présidentielle avec 67% des voix https://t.co/IM5SO1zUlU— ICIBRAZZA (@ICIBrazza) March 22, 2016
October referendum on constitutional reforms
With his imminent victory, Sassou-Nguesso completes a constitutional process that started back in October last year, the referendum to remove limits on presidential ternure led to the death of 18 protesters even though the President won it by a landslide 80%.
With that out od the way, the man who has ruled Congo for about three decades was ‘admitted’ to run in the March 20 polls which he was widely expected to win.
The opposition criticized the referendum as did the former colonial power, France saying that the process did not allow an accurate assessment of the results. The European Union also refused to send observers to Congo for the March 20 polls.
In the lead up to the vote, the government announced that it had ordered major communication service providers to suspend all phone and internet services in the interest of ‘‘security and public tranquility’‘
As at when the results were being announced, the second day after the elections, the communication blackout was still in force as Congolese were unable to make phone calls or to browse the internet.
Again, the communication blackout was also seen as a means of blocking the opposition’s decision to set up a parallel electoral commission to collate its own results from the polls in a bid to avert what it said was widespread rigging by the incumbent.
Day of Election
The entire country was in an almost lockdown mood for the entire election day (March 20) provinces in the country were largely quite as people went to cast their ballots. The roads were deserted and almost all businesses did not open.
The government also banned the use of motor vehicles nationwide during the vote, and police checkpoints were erected across the capital Brazzaville to verify that those circulating had obtained special permission.
Nguesso had promised the his supporters first round victory, which the opposition disputed.
The UN has appealed for calm, and urged “political parties, candidates and their supporters to resolve the disputes that may arise through dialogue and established legal procedures.”