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.