June 19, 2009 / 5:04 PM / 10 years ago

Congo Republic bars four opposition candidates

By Christian Tsoumou

BRAZZAVILLE, June 19 (Reuters) - Four opposition candidates in Congo Republic were barred on Friday from running in next month’s presidential election because they had failed to meet the right conditions.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, will still face 12 challengers in the oil-producing central African state where the last presidential ballot was dismissed as a sham by the opposition.

Among those banned by the constitutional court on Friday was Ange Edouard Poungui, Sassou’s former prime minister who was standing for the old ruling party. He was barred because he had not lived in Congo for an uninterrupted period of two years.

Another candidate, Christophe Moukoueke, was ruled ineligible because he was just over the age limit of 70 years.

The main opposition candidate, former finance minister Mathias Dzon of the Alliance for the Republic and Democracy, will be allowed to contest the vote on July 12.

President Sassou-Nguesso first seized power in a 1979 coup but lost multi-party elections in 1992.

He regained power in 1997 after his forces won control of Brazzaville and went on to win a landslide in 2002 elections from which key rivals were either banned or withdrew.

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