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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 10:10 GMT
Congo's leader heads for landslide
Denis Sassou Nguesso casts his vote
A team from the EU is monitoring the elections
Congo's military ruler, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is well ahead of his rivals in the country's presidential election, according to early partial results.

With more than half the votes counted, the interior ministry said the general had gained more than 80% of the vote in most of the capital and more than 90% in the northern and central plateau region.

Denis Sassou Nguesso
Sassou Nguesso: Accused of rigging elections

The general has been expected to win Sunday's election, after the main opposition candidate withdrew complaining of fraud and called for a boycott.

Rights groups have dismissed the poll as a "sham".

Final results are expected on Wednesday.

Voters stay away

Turnout in many parts of the capital, Brazzaville, was low.

All vehicles were barred from using the roads. All shops, restaurants and markets were told to stay shut. So those who took this historic opportunity did so in unusual peace and tranquillity.

But even with the streets practically empty the polling stations themselves were some of the quietest places to spend the day.

Some voters blamed the low attendance on disorganisation saying many names had been left off the role.

Others, who are opposition supporters, said they were following the advice of their leader, Andre Milongo, and were boycotting the election.

Fears of violence

Mr Milongo pulled out of the race on Friday saying Mr Sassou Nguesso had rigged the vote in advance.

His supporters deny this and said people would vote for him because he guarantees the peace and stability of the country.

The last presidential elections in Congo held in 1992 were followed by a decade of extremely violent civil wars.

Even Mr Sassou Nguesso's harshest critics say their priority is to avoid history repeating itself and there is widespread relief that the elections passed off peacefully.

See also:

10 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo poll lacks key candidate
10 Mar 02 | Africa
One-man race in Congo poll
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Republic of Congo
11 Aug 00 | Africa
Congo Brazzaville's 'peace train'
06 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Congo's glimmer of hope
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