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Congo-Brazzaville's President Sassou-Nguesso takes early poll lead

Incumbent president Denis Sassou-Nguesso and candidate for the presidential election delivers   -  
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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Presidential election Congo

Longtime Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso appears on course to win a fourth term, according to early results on Monday, as vote counting continues and despite the death of his main rival.

Sunday's presidential election was overshadowed by the sudden death of his main rival Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, who passed away from coronavirus on polling day.

Provisional official results from 35 polling stations indicated that Sassou Nguesso, 77, was on track for a landslide first-round victory.

Final results are expected later this week tallies from about 40% of the 86 districts showed that Sassou Nguesso is ahead and in some areas won 100% of the vote, according to Reuters.

In the Poto-Poto district of the capital Brazzaville, he had picked up 89.15 percent of the vote, according to figures issued by the electoral commission.

"Across the country, the results are mostly in line with this trend," commission chief Henri Bouka said.

One of the world's longest-serving rulers, Sassou Nguesso was the frontrunner in an election boycotted by the main opposition and under an internet blackout.

In power for a total of 36 years, he has long been accused by critics of iron-fisted rule and turning a blind eye to corruption, poverty and inequality despite abundant oil wealth.

Kolelas, 61, his only significant challenger, died on Sunday aboard a medical plane that took him to Paris, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP.

Who is the incumbent president?

Sassou Nguesso, a former paratrooper, first rose to power in the Republic of Congo in 1979.

He was forced to introduce multi-party elections in 1991 and was defeated at the ballot box a year later.

But he returned to power in 1997 following a prolonged civil war and has won every election since then, in conditions that the opposition says were fraudulent.

A constitutional amendment in 2015, which ended a ban on presidential candidates aged over 70 and scrapped a two-term limit, allowed him to run again in 2016. Two candidates in that vote -- former army general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and ex-minister Andre Okombi Salissa -- were sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison for "undermining state security".

Full results are likely to be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday, according to the electoral commission.