- Title: CONGO: Low key Congo polls likely to bolster ruling party
- Date: 27th June 2007
- Summary: (AD1) BRAZZAVILLE, CONGO REPUBLIC (JUNE 24, 2007) (REUTERS) CAR DRIVING DOWN STREET EXTERIOR OF VOTING CENTRE ELECTION OFFICIALS SITTING INSIDE VOTING CENTRE VARIOUS OF ELECTION OFFICIALS SITTING
- Embargoed: 12th July 2007 13:00
- Location: Congo
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA49W3JIS2MEBXQNHRHHJPW5ZUI
- Story Text: Low turnout and poor organisation marred parliamentary elections in Congo Republic, expected to strengthen the president's hold. Low turnout and poor organisation marred parliamentary elections in Congo Republic on Sunday (June 24) expected to strengthen the 10-year rule of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso in the central African oil producer.
A boycott by several opposition parties kept many voters at home amid the widespread expectation that the president's ruling Congolese Work Party (PCT) would increase its majority in the 137-seat national assembly.
In the riverside capital Brazzaville, polling stations opened several hours late as election materials were not deployed on time or electoral officers did not turn up and many polling stations were left deserted all day.
President Sassou-Nguesso voted with his wife, Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso in the capital where he dismissed the boycott and said the conditions were in place for a fair ballot.
"There are certain parties which have abstained, that's also their right, so it's their responsibility to decide this, but the fact that the elections are taking place in peace is for me a good sign," said Sassou-Nguesso.
Around half of Congo's 4 million people are registered to vote for 1,021 candidates but many people have complained they have not received voting cards. Others cited under-age voting and phantom voters on the electoral roll.
"Look, people are looking for their name, as they can't find their names there, they have to ask around, we have to help each other," Maurice Kamona, a resident in Brazzaville.
Army general Sassou-Nguesso took office at the head of a military regime in 1979 and ruled for 13 years before losing elections in 1992. He returned to power in an Angolan-backed uprising in 1997 which sparked a two-year civil war. He was ratified in office at presidential polls in 2002 at which opposition candidates were prevented from campaigning. Sassou-Nguesso, is expected to seek re-election in 2009.
Opposition parties accuse the government of packing the electoral commission with its supporters and tampering with electoral lists.
Major opposition parties, including the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) of ex-President Pascal Lissouba, decided to contest the polls. In many parts of the north, however, there were no challengers to the official candidate.
"The turnout is only from supporters of the the parties in power, so the presidential majority, the rest, the opposition parties, they are not represented. So these are not fair elections," said Blanchard Makosso, a resident in Brazzaville .
Congo Republic is sub-Saharan Africa's fifth largest oil producer but more than half its population lives in poverty. It was ranked as the fourteenth most corrupt country in the world in a 2006 Transparency International survey of 163 nations.
Results from Sunday's polls are expected in around a week. If no candidate wins a majority in a parliamentary district, the vote will go to a second round on July 22.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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