Low turnout at Congo’s referendum

Congo’s referendum which held yesterday, the 25th of October, reportedly produced a low turnout as only three percent of its population turned out to vote. The referendum, which was termed a ‘constitutional coup’ by opposition party members, was expected to lead to a change in the constitution that would strengthen President Sassou Nguesso’s bid for a third term. However, many people failed to show up, either for fear of violence, or in protest against the referendum itself.

After opposition leaders called for civil disobedience and poll boycott last week, another has come out to say the low turnout was a victory for the people of Congo. This is however some form of pyrrhic victory, since people who were seen at voting polls were mostly supporters of Sassou. There was even a polling unit where the voters were members of Nguesso’s security forces.

This boycott by the people of Congo could give Sassou Nguesso reason to inflate numbers at the polls; therefore, these people should have no reason to complain when results of the polls come out, since they have neglected a primary duty in a democracy, the duty to vote.

Perhaps, the most deluded of the protagonists is President Sassou who declared on Sunday that his people had shown the world ‘that they were in charge of their own destiny’ when they came out to vote. Considering the facts, his declaration is ironic. While results are not expected for several days, as they are still being counted, all signs point to a constitutional change for the people, and a third term for Sassou Nguesso.

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