BRAZZAVILLE – The party of President Denis Sassou Nguesso dominated as expected a first-round parliamentary election in the oil-exporting Central African state of Congo Republic, results showed on Friday, although the vote was widely shunned.
Opposition parties complained ahead of the elections that Nguesso’s Congolese Workers’ Party (PCT) had privileged access to state media in a country where past votes have been tainted with accusations of fraud.
Interior Minister Zephirin Mboulou acknowledged turnout had been weak but gave no official figure. The Congolese Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) estimated that only 15 percent of the some two million eligible voters turned out.
Results released late on Thursday showed the PCT took 57 of the 69 seats decided in the first round, with a further 10 seats going to allies of the PCT. The remainder of the seats in the 139-seat parliament will be settled in an August 5 run-off.
Sassou Nguesso came to power in a 1997 coup and has won two elections since then, including a 2009 presidential vote tinged by charges of fraud. A constitutional limit on presidential terms means he must step down in 2016, although some opposition groups say they believe his party will seek to change that.
Under Nguesso, Congo Republic has enjoyed a degree of stability since 1997. But in March nearly 300 people were killed in a blast sparked by a fire at an arms dump in Brazzaville filled with munitions left over from the civil war.
The former French colony is expecting oil production at around 288,000 barrels per day this year, worth $5 billion in revenue. The International Monetary Fund sees economic growth rising from 3.1 percent this year to over 5 percent in 2013.
However, the government has been accused of not doing enough with its oil wealth to develop the nation, which has long scored poorly on Transparency International’s corruption index.