The Republic of Congo began a presidential election on Sunday that will probably extend the 18-year rule of Denis Sassou Nguesso.
Eight other candidates are vying for the presidency of the oil-producing Central African nation, including a former armed forces chief of staff, Jean-Marie Mokoko, and Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, who led protests against a referendum last year that enabled Sassou Nguesso to run for a third seven-year term.
Polling stations were scheduled to open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Authorities announced on Saturday that all Internet and mobile-phone calls will be blocked Sunday for security reasons.
As many as 2.1 million voters are eligible to cast a ballot, or slightly less than half the country’s 4.5 million population. Five opposition parties have set up a joint parallel commission meant to prevent electoral fraud, sending opposition supporters to the 5,000 polling stations nationwide.
Sassou Nguesso led the country from 1979 to 1992 and then returned to power at the end of a civil war in 1997. He was elected in 2002 and 2009 in votes whose results the opposition disputed. The country is dependent on oil revenue, accounting for 56 percent of gross domestic product and 69 percent of revenue in 2014.
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(Updates with mobile-phone ban in third paragraph.)
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