Freedom in the World
Congo, Republic of (Brazzaville)
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Congo received a downward trend arrow due to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s increasing concentration of power and the authorities’ handling of the July 2009 presidential election and its aftermath, including the disqualification of several opposition candidates and the intimidation of journalists.
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso secured a new term in the July 2009 presidential election, which was marred by the lack of an independent electoral commission, the disqualification of several opposition candidates, and the intimidation of journalists. Sassou-Nguesso subsequently eliminated the position of prime minister, further concentrating executive power in his own hands. A postelection demonstration by the opposition was forcefully halted by the police, and opposition leaders were barred from leaving the country.
Congo is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s major oil producers, which has led to strong economic ties with France and other European states. However, corruption and decades of instability have contributed to poor humanitarian conditions. Congo ranked 136 out of 182 countries on the 2009 UN Human Development Index.
The Republic of Congo is not an electoral democracy. Recent elections have been marred by irregularities, opposition boycotts and disqualifications, and the absence of an independent electoral commission. The constitution of 2002 limits the president to two seven-year terms, although current president Denis Sassou-Nguesso has been in office since he seized power in 1997; he previously ruled from 1979 to 1992. The Senate, the upper house of Parliament, consists of 72 members, with councilors from each department electing six senators for six-year terms; half of the total ordinarily come up for election every three years, although 42 seats were at stake in 2008. Members of the 137-seat National Assembly, the lower house, are directly elected for five-year terms. Most of the over 200 registered political parties are personality driven and ethnically based. The ruling RMP coalition faces a weak and fragmented opposition.
Nongovernmental organizations operate more or less without interference as long as they do not challenge the ruling elite. Workers’ rights to join trade unions and to strike are protected, and collective bargaining is practiced freely. Most workers in the formal business sector, including the oil industry, are union members, and unions have made efforts to organize informal sectors, such as agriculture and retail trade.