The main opposition candidate in the Republic of Congo‘s presidential election, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, died while being evacuated for medical treatment, it was learned Monday, as the first results of Sunday’s election gave incumbent President Denis Sassou-Nguesso the lead.
The election campaign had revealed on Sunday that the 61-year-old former minister Kolelas was hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease and was unable to vote.
Kolelas was seen as President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s strongest opponent, although diplomats and analysts said there was little doubt the incumbent would win and extend his 36-year rule.
Full results are not expected until the end of the week, but counts from about 40 percent of the 86 districts show Sassou Nguesso leading, including some where he won 100 percent of the vote, the election commission said.
“They all show the same trend,” commission chairman Henri Bouka told a news conference in the capital Brazzaville.
Kolelas’ heart stopped when his plane landed in Paris and the ambulance team could not save him, said his adviser, Didier Loco. His spokesman, Justin Nzoloufoua, declined to give the cause of death.
In the capital Brazzaville, mourners filled the headquarters of the Union of Humanist Democrats (UDH-YUKI) party, where a huge portrait of Kolelas hung on the wall and the national flag was flown at half-mast.
Everyone was counting on him. We are very disappointedEdgar Masomba – 50 year old supporter
Kolelas, the son of former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, worked in the government for many years and came in second place in the 2016 presidential election.
He released a video from his hospital bed late Saturday. Breathing heavily and holding an oxygen mask next to his face, Kolelas said he was “fighting death” but urged Congolese to “go vote for change.”
Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas sending a video message from his hospital bed
Some supporters said they doubted he had really died from COVID-19, but party leaders tried to dismiss conspiracy theories.
“Whether it was COVID or something else is not important to us. What matters is the future of the party,” said its secretary general, Gaston Malanda.
“Unfortunately, the disaster happened when we were calculating the results. We have no information today to say whether he won or not. “
The legal ramifications of a candidate’s death after the polls closed but before the results were announced are unclear, said Maja Bovcon, senior analyst for Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
“Given that all key state institutions are under Sassou Nguesso’s control, we do not expect the Constitutional Court to be involved,” she said.
President Sassou, 77, amended the constitution in 2015 to extend term limits.
A nationwide internet blackout on election day continued Monday, witnesses said.
the public prosecutor’s office in Bobigny, France, has announced the opening of a criminal investigation into the causes of the death of the opponent, whose body has not yet been repatriated to the Republic of Congo, where it is incomprehensible.