Congo's Longtime Leader Hails His Re-election

Brazzaville – Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou N’Guesso hailed his re-election as “the real will of the people” on Thursday, one day after a leading opposition candidate accused him of cheating.

Sassou N’Guesso’s first-round win with 60% of the vote was announced on state television just after 03:00, though election officials had provided provisional results to journalists earlier in the week. The results must now be validated by the Constitutional Court.

“I will always be at the side of the people,” Sassou N’Guesso said in brief remarks after the early morning announcement. He has ruled the Central African country since 1979, though he was out of power for five years beginning in 1992 after losing the first multi-party vote.

Sunday’s poll came five months after a constitutional referendum removed term and age limits that would have barred the 72-year-old leader from running.

The run-up to the October referendum featured clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, though the recent election period was calm.

Opposition politician Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas came in second with 15%. Gen. Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, former chief of staff of the armed forces, trailed close behind with nearly 14%.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mokoko said he would not accept the results, raising the possibility of demonstrations.

“If the government persists in cheating, then we will be obliged to seek recourse with the people so that they understand the consequences of their vote being stolen,” Mokoko said.