Official results of the 25 October referendum announced by the minister of interior, put voter turnout at 75%, and 92% would have voted in favour of the new revised constitution. The revision removes presidential term and age limits, allowing 71-year-old president Dennis Sassou Nguesso to extend his 32-year rule and to stand for the elections scheduled in August 2016. In the run-up to the referendum, thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets, condemning the so-called ‘constitutional coup’, leading to at least four deaths.
Impact on country risk
Hoping to unleash a Burkina Faso-style popular overthrow of the president, the opposition and civil society are likely to continue to stage large demonstrations in the coming months in urban areas across the country. Nevertheless, the situation differs substantially in the sense that Nguesso enjoys strong backing from the military. Security forces are controlled by the president’s family and ethnic group (Mbochi) and will continue to confront protesters heavy-handedly. Still, Nguesso’s former tactics of spending his way to an electoral victory are somewhat hampered by the large loss in state revenues since the oil price collapse and delayed oil production expansion, driving up the 2015 budget deficit to -9.4% of GDP, a historic high. Even though the referendum made it more likely for Nguesso to consolidate his power, the period in anticipation of the actual election will be tense and protests could lead to disruptions in oil hubs Pointe Noir and Brazzaville.
Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, firstname.lastname@example.org