ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST - The Republic of Congo heads to a presidential election next Sunday amid deepening distrust as President Denis Sassou N'guesso seeks to extend his already three decades in power.
The country's electoral campaign is in full swing, but the main opposition coalition, the IDC-Frocad, said authorities are preventing the candidates from campaigning.
IDC-Frocad Spokeperson Guy Romain Kinfoussia said police recently threw tear gas into a meeting held by a candidate of the opposition. And another candidate was refused the right to hold a meeting in a public square.
Nine candidates are running, including N’Guesso, already in power for 30 years.
The president held a referendum in October to change the constitution to remove the two term-mandate limit and 70-year-old age ceiling for candidates. The referendum passed with 92 percent of vote, a result rejected by the opposition which had called for a boycott.
N'guesso said he aims to win re-election in the first round.
Opposition electoral commission
Last week, the opposition coalition announced the creation of its own organization to tally votes, claiming the official electoral commission is biased in favor of the incumbent president.
Kinfoussia said that the electoral commission is neither equal nor independent.
The government, however, has dismissed the legitimacy of the opposition's new election commission.
The European Union said it is not sending observers for Sunday’s vote, stating the conditions for free and fair elections were not met.
France’s ruling party asked for the elections to be delayed, and so did the Congolese Human Rights Organization, or OCDH, a local non-governmental organization.
The elections were originally planned for July, but the government moved them up to speed up the implementation of the new constitution adopted last year.