Monday, July 27, 2009

Constitutional Court Upholds Re-Election of Republic of Congo-Brazzaville President

BRAZZAVILLE 25 July 2009 Sapa-AFP


The Republic of Congo's constitutional court confirmed Saturday
the re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, which had been
disputed by opponents who alleged widespread fraud in the July 12

And government spokesman Alain Akouala Atipault said
subsequently that Sassou Nguesso would be sworn in for a fresh
seven-year term - his last, according to the oil-rich country's
constitution - on August 14, the date his existing mandate

Sassou Nguesso, 66, who returned to power after civil war in
1997 and has run the smaller of west-central Africa's two Congos
for a total of a quarter century, won the poll with 78.61 percent
of the vote.

Since Saturday, he has been resting in the northern village of
his birth, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the capital

Five of his 12 opponents challenged the outcome of the July 12
election, alleging widespread fraud, but the court ruled that their
claims were "without foundation" and "irrelevant".

"The candidate Denis Sassou Nguesso, having had 1,055,117
ballots, or 78.61 percent of votes cast, was elected president of
the republic in the first round," the court's president Gerard
Bitsindou told a public hearing.

The five, one of whose complaints was deemed inadmissible on the
grounds it was filed too late, were due to hold meetings in six
cities around a country which stretches 1,000 kilometres (625
miles) inland from the Atlantic coast south of the Gulf of Guinea
before re-assessing their positions.

However, opposition spokesman Clement Mierassa said Interior
Minister Raymond Mboulou had banned the gatherings, although the
minister could not be contacted by AFP for confirmation.

"We are surprised by the decision," said Mierassa, one of the
losing candidates in the vote. "To cancel meetings after securing
permission from the cities concerned is to curb freedom of

Under Congolese law, the constitutional court's rulings cannot
be appealed.

Later Saturday, the head of a coalition of opposition parties
presenting themselves as a united front, Guy-Romain Kinfoussia,
labelled the court's decision "a blow to democracy."

Kinfoussia, who had previously called in vain for a delay to the
election and a boycott of the vote, complained that the court had
"not done the work it was supposed to."

His was the complaint dismissed for arriving after the deadline
for submissions and of that decision, he added: "We knew it would
pan out like that... No surprise whatsoever."

The court did not change any of the results published by the
ministry of territorial administration, which co-organised the vote
with the national electoral commission.

Sassou Nguesso is one of Africa's longest-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.

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

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