Elections in Africa, a dominant theme throughout the year 2020. It continues in 2021 with the Republic of Congo which has set its presidential election for March 21. Africanews’ Editor of the Day, Brigette Ugwe speaks to Africanews’ Journalist Serge Patrick- Mankou on what this announcement has generated among the opposition in the Central African nation.

Bridget Ugwe: This is one of the main announcements of President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s State of the Nation address on Wednesday.The presidential election in Congo will be held on March 21 2021. To avoid any unconstitutionality, says the head of state. But what he does not say is that it is also a way to undermine the opposition.

Serge Patrick- Mankou: First thing Bridget, the President of the Republic of Congo Denis Sassou-Nguesso is adhering to Article 69 of the Constitution which stipulates that the first round of the presidential election must take place at least 30 days at the most 40 before the expiration of the term of office of the incumbent president. So Denis Sassou-Nguesso insisted on complying with the Constitution by announcing the holding of this election no later than March 21 next year. But, as you said, has the Congolese president put an end to speculations that the elections will be held? Since December 2019, opponents have been asking for the postponement of this election, notably the leader of the opposition Pascal Tsaty Mabiala. Opponents have also asked for arbitration by the head of state to try to see how to remove some of the stumbling blocks regarding the presidential elections. But finally I think that the president did not listen to the warnings by the opposition.

Bridget Ugwe: March 21 is already three months away, is the country ready? Have the conditions been met to hold credible elections in the Republic of Congo?

Serge Patrick- Mankou: At the moment, at least 3 months before the presidential elections, there are still things to be worked out. The Electoral Commission has only known its leaders a few weeks ago and again there is a problem here because its president Henri Bouka, is also the president of the Supreme Court. For the opponents this is too much! There is also the biometrics requested by the opposition. With 3 months to go, can we still put in place biometric voter cards? So there are still things to review and to correct. But in 3 months will the country hold the bet of this election? We wait to see!

Bridget Ugwe: We are talking about elections but there won’t be one without a candidate. Denis Sassou Nguesso still has to confirm that he accepts his party’s ticket.

Serge Patrick- Mankou: When we look at his State of the Nation address on Wednesday, there are even a few elements that can lead us to say that the president might run again. He tried to outline a few projects to come, including the construction of a refinery in Pointe Noire, he also talked about the construction of hospitals in some region. In a nutshell, so many elements that can still lead us to say that this is a small campaign project.

Bridget Ugwe: What would be the impact of this presidential election on the regional level?

Serge Patrick- Mankou:I think that this election has its place with regards to the involvement of the country in certain issues that concern the continent, or Libya as we have seen recently. It is also perhaps a question of measuring the degree of democracy at on the continent and also to know if Sassou-Nguesso, who’s governed for years, will run for another term.

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