Many questions now raised for the future of the Republic of Congo after opposition leader Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas died hours after polls closed in the presidential election.
It is certainly unheard of but what does this mean for the vote -- will it be annulled? and what does the Congolese constitution dictate?
Africanews journalist Serge-Patrick Mankou shared some insights into the current situation:
Question 1: The death of a candidate in the middle of a presidential election is unheard of. Does the Congolese Constitution dictate anything in this regard, and if so, what does it recommend?
It is Article 70 of the Constitution of October 15 2015 which states that before the first round, if one of the candidates is definitively held up or if he dies, the Constitutional Court should pronounce the postponement of the election.
Here we are in a situation that would require the interpretation of constitutional experts to understand the meaning of this situation. Because Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas died on the way to France for treatment while the voters were already going to the polls.
So when we talk about before the first round, does that mean while the voters have finished their civic duty, or does the first round include the whole process that should end with the publication of the results?
If this is the case, it means that it is possible that the first round of the election is cancelled. Now if the first round is the period during which voters cast their ballots, then I think the process can continue.
For his supporters, it's a great disappointment as he was the main opposition to the incumbent president and long time leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is tipped to win the election and promised a knockout victory
Question 2: We can imagine the great disappointment on the side of the opposition and its supporters, Guy Parfait Kolélas was the main opposition to the outgoing president. DSN promised a victory by a knockout blow. Can we now go ahead and declare DSN the de facto winner? Will there be a second round?
You know, we are in a country where polling institutes hardly function, so it's difficult at the moment to have even the smallest idea. It's true that Denis Sassou Nguesso promised what we call in Africa "a coup KO", that is, to win the election in the first round. But some candidates have also promised to eject the president from his chair in the first round.
Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas for example had clearly said that the idea was also to win in the first round. Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda, Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas' campaign manager, has already announced that his candidate was in the lead in several localities. Mathias Dzon also says he is in the lead. We are finally and serenely waiting for the publication of the results, difficult to say who will win.
What is true is that Denis Sassou Nguesso may have the advantage of being the outgoing president and being at the heart of the organisation of this election because it is he who appoints the members of the electoral commission. It is, therefore, necessary to wait for the publication of the results, which should take place later this week.
Question 3: Access to the Internet and social networks was cut off on Sunday morning, and the Catholic Church Episcopal Conference was refused permission to observe the vote.
The cutting off of the Internet, the refusal to grant accreditation to the Catholic Church, which wanted to supervise the conduct of this election, is akin to a closed-door decree, and I believe that this could discredit the results that will be published after the first round of the presidential election.