Polls are open in the Republic of Congo, with President Denis Sassou Nguesso widely expected to extend his 36-year rule despite an ongoing economic crisis and accusations of having mismanaged the country’s oil revenues.
With his grip on power as firm as ever, diplomats and analysts alike doubt any of Sassou’s six opponents will unseat him, instead suggesting voter turnout as a better barometer of his popularity.
“There will be no surprises in this election,” one Brazzaville-based diplomat said, requesting anonymity so as to speak candidly.
“People are traumatised. They’re not happy, but there’s no alternative.”
United Nations and European Union observers were not invited to monitor the election, and the interior ministry refused to allow the Catholic Church’s 1,100 observers to take part.
Observers are optimistic that polling will play out peacefully on Sunday, however, unlike the 2016 presidential election that was marred by sporadic violence.
An accord signed with opposition fighters in 2017 has spurred hopes for a peaceful aftermath.
Results are expected to be published within four days of voting. If no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of votes, a second round will take place 15 days later.