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Congolese voters support extension of presidential term: Government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguessou arrives casts his ballot in the capital, Brazzaville, October 25, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

More than 90 percent of voters in a referendum on constitutional changes in the Republic of the Congo have approved President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s bid to stand for a third term in office, the Congolese government says.

Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou said on Tuesday that a total of 92.96 percent of the voters in the referendum have backed Nguesso’s bid, putting the turnout in the plebiscite at 72.44 percent.

Opposition leader Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, however, said the turnout in the October 25 referendum was actually much lower, and said only 10 percent of the Congolese cast their ballots.

Mabiala dismissed the referendum results, saying “This result is a fantasy.”

A constitution for the future?

After casting his own ballot, Sassou Nguesso denied that the proposed changes were about him personally.

“We want change in order to have a constitution of the future, and not as others claim for superficial reasons because the president craves a new mandate,” the 71-year-old Congolese leader said.

A man wears a T-shirt reading ‘I vote yes,’ outside a government electoral meeting in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, ahead of the referendum, October 24, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

 

Under the current constitution, Sassou Nguesso cannot seek another seven-year term in the 2016 election because he is over the maximum age of 70 for presidential candidates, and has already served two terms.

The recent referendum proposed two changes to the terms of the constitution as to address both limitations.

Congo was rocked by protests in the run-up to the vote. Authorities said four people were killed during clashes between opposition demonstrators and security forces in the capital, Brazzaville, and the second largest city of Pointe-Noire last week.

But opposition leader Paul-Marie Mpouele claimed at least 20 people had died in the unrest.

Sassou Nguesso first came to power in 1979 and remained in office as the head of state until 1992. He won the 2002 presidential election, which involved low opposition participation, and was re-elected in the 2009 poll with nearly 79 percent of the vote.


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