The Republic of Congo's constitutional court confirmed Saturday the re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, which had been disputed by opponents who alleged widespread fraud in the July 12 vote.
And government spokesman Alain Akouala Atipault said subsequently that Sassou Nguesso would be sworn in for a fresh seven-year term -- his last, according to the oil-rich country's constitution -- on August 14, the date his existing mandate expires.
Sassou Nguesso, 66, who returned to power after civil war in 1997 and has run the smaller of west-central Africa's two Congos for a total of a quarter century, won the poll with 78.61 percent of the vote.
Since Saturday, he has been resting in the northern village of his birth, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the capital Brazzaville.
Five of his 12 opponents challenged the outcome of the July 12 election, alleging widespread fraud, but the court ruled that their claims were "without foundation" and "irrelevant".
"The candidate Denis Sassou Nguesso, having had 1,055,117 ballots, or 78.61 percent of votes cast, was elected president of the republic in the first round," the court's president Gerard Bitsindou told a public hearing.
The five, one of whose complaints was deemed inadmissible on the grounds it was filed too late, were due to hold meetings in six cities around a country which stretches 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) inland from the Atlantic coast south of the Gulf of Guinea before re-assessing their positions.
However, opposition spokesman Clement Mierassa said Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou had banned the gatherings, although the minister could not be contacted by AFP for confirmation.
"We are surprised by the decision," said Mierassa, one of the losing candidates in the vote. "To cancel meetings after securing permission from the cities concerned is to curb freedom of expression."
Under Congolese law, the constitutional court's rulings cannot be appealed.
Later Saturday, the head of a coalition of opposition parties presenting themselves as a united front, Guy-Romain Kinfoussia, labelled the court's decision "a blow to democracy."
Kinfoussia, who had previously called in vain for a delay to the election and a boycott of the vote, complained that the court had "not done the work it was supposed to."
His was the complaint dismissed for arriving after the deadline for submissions and of that decision, he added: "We knew it would pan out like that... No surprise whatsoever."
The court did not change any of the results published by the ministry of territorial administration, which co-organised the vote with the national electoral commission.
Sassou Nguesso is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders having first come to power three decades ago.
His first stint as president of the former French colony stretched from 1979 to 1992 and he returned to the presidency in 1997 after a civil war.
He was re-elected in 2002 in a vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.
Source: AFP Global Edition