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Congo Elections Set to Start Amid Fraud Claims

Parliamentary elections are set to go ahead in the Republic of Congo Sunday despite opposition boycotts and widespread voter apathy. Franz Wild reports for VOA from Brazzaville.

Two million voters in Congo-Brazzaville have the right to vote on Sunday.

The president of the electoral commission, Henri Bouka, told journalists everything is set for the polls to go ahead.

He says the electoral materials are in place and that the conditions are such that everyone can vote in serenity and confidence.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso's Congolese Labor Party hopes the election results will enable it to consolidate its grip on the 137-seat national assembly. This appears likely because it has an alliance with the nation's second-largest party.

Opposition groups have already cried foul. They say paper ballots have not reached remote areas, voter cards have not been distributed and constituencies are unbalanced in a way that favors the ruling party.

Feeling that their vote will make little difference and that the results will be rigged, many throughout the capital, Brazzaville, where a third of the population lives, are expected to stay home.

An alliance of opposition parties has called for a boycott. One of those boycotting is General Emmanuel Ngouelondele, a former head of the special services unit of police intelligence. He is now a politician.

He says the authoritarian regime has weakened the people and they have lost the will to resist.

He says the Congolese people have been starved, humiliated and disregarded. He says corruption is Congo's system of governance, you give people a little money and they stop criticizing.

Candidates who fail to win an absolute majority in their constituencies on Sunday will face a run-off next month.