Thursday, July 16, 2009

Congo-Brazzaville Leader Swepts to Power Again

Congo-Brazzaville Leader Swepts to Power Again

By Laudes Martial Mbon
July 16, 2009 03:42am

DENIS Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled Congo with an iron fist for nearly a quarter of a century, swept back into power with 78.61 per cent of the votes, official figures showed.

Sassou Nguesso won 1,055,117 votes in an election Sunday where the turnout was 66.42 per cent, according to provisional figures read out by Territorial Administration Minister Raymond Mboulou.

The former military ruler was officially said easily to have beaten 12 other candidates, six of whom had asked for a boycott of the poll on the grounds that it would be rigged. The opposition also contests the turnout.

Former finance minister Mathias Dzon of the Alliance for Democracy and the Republic, considered to be Sassou Nguesso's main rival, took 2.30 per cent of the votes, the provisional official figures said.

Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou, an independent candidate, came in second place with 7.46 per cent, and beat Nicephore Fylla de Saint-Eudes of the Liberal Republican Party, who got 6.98 per cent.

But the opposition has widely criticised the conduct of the whole poll by the government ministry and by the electoral commission, which they accuse of being a tool of the regime.

Small teams of monitors from the African Union and the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States said this year's poll "took place in a calm and serene atmosphere".

However the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, said the poll was "neither fair, nor transparent, nor balanced" and had been marked by a "very weak" turnout.

Sassou Nguesso, 66, is one of Africa's long-serving leaders having first come to power three decades ago.

His first stint as president of the former French colony stretched from 1979 to 1992 and he returned to the presidency in 1997 after a civil war.

Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in 2002 in a vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.

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