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Republic of Congo President Sassou N'Guesso declared winner

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Friday March 19, 2021 file photo, a supporter of President Denis Sassou N'Guesso holds his photo during the last rally of the presidential campaign in Brazzaville, Congo. Republic of Congo pressed ahead Sunday March 21, 2021 with an election in which President Denis Sassou N'Guesso is widely expected to extend his 36 years in power, while the leading opposition candidate was flown to France after suffering COVID-19 complications. (AP Photo/Zed Lebon, File)

BRAZZAVILLE – Election officials in Republic of Congo on Tuesday declared President Denis Sassou N'Guesso the winner of an election, further extending his presidency of more than 36 years in office. The election was marked by the death of his main opponent from COVID-19.

The results were announced by Interior Minister Raymond Zephirin Mboulou on national television two days after the vote in this Central African nation often overshadowed by its neighbor with a similar name, Congo.

Sassou N'Guesso received 88.5% of ballots cast, according to official results. The top opposition candidate whose death was announced the day after the election, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, won 7.8% of the vote. The remaining ballots were split among the five other contenders.

One of those candidates, Mathias Dzon, has said he plans to appeal to the Constitutional Court to cancel the official results, citing an article of the constitution “which provides for the cancellation of the ballot when a candidate dies or is unable to vote.”

However, the head of the national independent electoral commission said that the article in question does not apply this time.

"Kolelas died after the vote in Paris so Article 70 cannot be evoked in these conditions,” said Henri Bouka, who is also president of the Supreme Court in Congo.

Sassou N'Guesso, a former army general, led Republic of Congo from 1979 to 1992, when he placed third in the country's first democratic elections.

After a voluntary exile in France, Sassou N’Guesso came back to power in 1997 after his supporters prevailed in a four-month civil war, and he has now been re-elected four times.