Republic of Congo elections: A predetermined outcome? | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 20.03.2021

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Republic of Congo elections: A predetermined outcome?

Congolese will vote in presidential elections on Sunday. Most citizens have only ever known one head of state during their lives: Denis Sassou Nguesso, whose grip on power looks set to continue.

A woman runs past a poster in support of the re-election of the Republic of Congo's incumbent President and presidential candidate Denis Sassou Nguesso, in Brazzaville

Republic of Congo's incumbent president looks set to be re-elected on Sunday

Billboards plastered with election propaganda in the Congolese capital Brazzaville shout out to the passersby: "Plus loin ensemble" — "we'll go further together." The posters are signed "DSP": Denis Sassou Nguesso.

On March 21, the president of the Republic of Congo will face off against six opponents in the run for another term.

"Sassou Nguesso has been in office for 37 years now, and he will hold on to power, by force if necessary," Sadio Kante-Morel told DW.

The journalist knows what she's talking about.

She was persecuted by Nguesso's secret police and arrested several times, after protesting against the extension of his term in office.

In 2014, the pressure became too much to bear: Kante-Morel left Brazzaville and went into exile in France.

"I took to the streets in Brazzaville with banners that read 'Congo is not Nguesso's private property'."

But Nguesso does not tolerate dissent: "He had a referendum whipped through in 2015, that gave him three more terms of five years each," said Kante-Morel.

Which means that he has ten more years to go. "The regime wants to maintain a facade of democracy, but dictatorship prevails," explained Kante-Morel.

A man in uniform casts his ballot in early voting

A member of the security forces casts his early ballot at a polling station in Brazzaville

Doubts about the election's legality

In February, the country's Episcopal Conference expressed "serious reservations" about the organization of the presidential election.

It saw no transparency in the planned counting process of the ballots, particularly because of the curfew in place to fight the COVID pandemic.

They also pointed out the lack of independent election observers. Several candidates have been excluded from the race.

The clergy called the 2016 elections a farce and claimed that, this time too, the electoral system will be controlled by Nguesso's Congolese Party of Labor (PCT).

A part of the opposition announced form the outset that it would boycott the election.

Nevertheless, apart from the long-time ruler, six candidates are standing for election on March 21.

The roster includes former Finance Minister Mathias Dzon and Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, who came second in the 2016 election. Observers say the opposition doesn't stand a chance.

Republik Kongo Wahlen Brazzaville

An election agent holds up a list of presidential candidates as early voting takes place

This article has been adapted from German