The Republic of Congo’s government says the first round of presidential elections will be held March 20, 2016. Minister of Communications Thierry Lezin Moungalla stated a national electoral committee has been created and a draft electoral law adopted.
Elections were originally anticipated to be July 2016. The opposition said it would participate in elections under certain conditions, including the formation of a truly independent election commission.
Voters in October 2015 approved constitutional changes that allow the country’s longtime leader President Denis Sassou N’Guesso to seek another term. Sassou N’Guesso was president from 1979 until 1992, when he lost re-election. Five years later he returned to power and has been at the helm ever since.
President Sassou Nguesso has not said yet whether he will run. But the October referendum, approved by more than 92 percent of voters according to official results, abolishes a two-term limit and an age limit of 70 for presidential candidates. Those new conditions make the president eligible to run again if he wants.
The opposition boycotted the referendum and said the turnout was actually much lower, down in the single digits. Opposition leader Pascal Tsaty Mabiala called for the referendum to be thrown out. The 71-year-old Nguesso won disputed elections in 2002 and 2009, and has ruled Congo in different capacities for most of the past 36 years.