Turnout in a referendum in Congo on Sunday was reduced to a trickle in the capital after the opposition asked voters to boycott the poll on whether the president can legally stand for a third consecutive term in an election due next year. President Denis Sassou Nguesso, 71, is the latest long-serving African president to try to prolong his grip on power by changing the constitution. Several other such efforts have provoked violence, and four died in Congo Republic last week when security forces opened fire on protesters. In some parts of the capital, the only voters were members of the security forces, witnesses said. There was no information on turnout in other parts of the country. Polling booths closed at 6 p.m. (12:00 p.m. ET) and vote counting began.
Sassou Nguesso appeared confident of victory when he voted and said he regretted that the opposition had called for a boycott. “The Congolese are a free and sovereign people …. My side will win because I know that our people love peace,” he said.
Dozens of residents moved from southern neighborhoods of Brazzaville to other areas on Saturday to avoid possible conflict, although several said they were worried they would not be able to vote as a result.
Others complained they had not received voter cards. Some people held up signs with the word “No” in protest at the vote. Analysts have warned that further violence is possible and that a low turnout could undermine the vote’s credibility.