The main opposition candidate has said he is ‘fighting death’ after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on the eve of the presidential election.
The main opposition presidential candidate in the Republic of Congo was receiving oxygen in a private hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a family member said, questioning Sunday’s election in the day before the vote.
The result of the election was already almost certain even before the confirmation of the illness of Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas.
President Denis Sassou N’Guesso has been in power for more than 36 years, with the last time 60% of the vote in 2016. But the constitution of the Central African country states that an election can be delayed if a candidate dies or is unable to participate in the vote.
Kolelas, the president’s main opponent, skipped his latest campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria. A relative who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said plans were underway for Kolelas to be evacuated overseas for further treatment.
The 61-year-old has diabetes and is at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. A video circulating on social media dated Friday showed Kolelas wearing an oxygen mask and a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.
“My dear compatriots, I am in difficulty. I am fighting death, ”said the candidate in a weak voice after removing his oxygen mask. “However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I wouldn’t have fought for nothing.
A campaign spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the video and Kolelas’ hospitalization. Two people at the hospital who had seen Kolelas’ test results confirmed to the AP on Saturday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
There was no immediate reaction to government developments on Saturday evening.
Kolelas came second behind Sassou N’Guesso in the country’s 2016 presidential election with around 15% of the vote. The opposition figure has particularly criticized the outgoing leader in recent days, saying that the Republic of Congo has become “a police state”.
Sassou N’Guesso is the third president in office in Africa, ruling from 1979 to 1992 and again since 1997 in this nation often overshadowed by its vast neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Republic of the Congo has recorded fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 134 confirmed deaths.