The Republic of Congo opposition leader Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, one of the main contenders in Congo-Brazzaville’s presidential race, died on Sunday after becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.
His campaign director told the AFP news agency that Kolelas “died in the medical aircraft which came to get him from Brazzaville on Sunday afternoon”.
#BREAKING: Congo opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas has died of Covid as he was being transferred to France for treatment, his campaign director says. He was the main challenger in yesterday’s elections in which President Denis Sassou Nguesso was frontrunner. @AFP
— AFP Africa (@AFPAfrica) March 22, 2021
The 61-year-old tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, the last day of election campaigns. He was diabetic and was one of six candidates running against President Sassou Nguesso, 77.
The Republic of Congo voted Sunday in a presidential election boycotted by the main opposition and under an internet blackout, with critics voicing concerns over the transparency of the polls seen as tilted towards veteran leader Denis Sassou Nguesso.
There were no reports of major incidents before polling stations closed. However, access to the internet and social media, as well as text messages, was cut.
Provisional results are not expected for days.
“The only uncertainty is what score Sassou will tell the electoral commission to give him,” said Congolese novelist Emmanuel Dongala, contacted by AFP at his US home.
The 77-year-old Sassou Nguesso is widely expected to win against six contenders, led by economist Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, who revealed Saturday that he is gravely ill with Covid-19.
His campaign posters asked voters to help him deliver a “knock-out blow” — or a first-round win so that no run-off vote will be required in the central African oil exporter.
A day before the election, late Kolelas was filmed looking weak and wearing an oxygen mask, but encouraging voters to go cast their ballots.
He was the son of a former prime minister and previously held the position of minister of fishing and civil servants.
The electoral law doesn’t annul the election if one of the candidates dies.