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The Congolese Party of Labour (French: Parti congolais du travail, PCT), founded in 1969 by Marien Ngouabi, is the ruling political party of the Republic of the Congo. It was originally a Marxist-Leninist pro-Soviet party, which founded the People's Republic of the Congo, but moved towards a moderate left wing stance in the early 1990s.
The PCT was founded by President Ngouabi in December 1969 and was Congo-Brazzaville's sole ruling party from the moment of its creation. From the outset, it was heavily dominated by military officers from the sparsely populated north of Congo-Brazzaville. Although the PCT regime was designed as a Soviet-style socialist party-state, it was essentially a military regime with a strongly ethno-regional character. Members of the southern ethnic groups, who were far more numerous than northerners, were included in the power structure, but the top leaders were consistently northerners.
Ideologically, the party represented a spectrum of Marxist-Leninist views and suffered from internecine struggles in the 1970s, which sometimes turned violent. Some leaders on the left-wing of the party, such as Ange Diawara and Claude-Ernest Ndalla, favored a radical pro-Chinese position; they unsuccessfully attempted a coup d'etat against Ngouabi in February 1972. The right-wing of the party, which was derided as having only a superficial commitment to Marxism-Leninism, was represented by Joachim Yhombi Opango; the 1972 plot was inspired by the left-wing's loathing for Yhombi Opango.
Ngouabi was assassinated under unclear circumstances in March 1977, and Yhombi Opango succeeded him. However, Yhombi Opango's opponents in the PCT were angered by his rightist "deviationism" and perceived marginalization of the party, and they ousted him in a February 1979 technical coup, installing Denis Sassou Nguesso—another career officer from the north—in power. The elevation of Sassou Nguesso, who represented the PCT's left-wing, marked a return to party orthodoxy. Nevertheless, Sassou Nguesso was neither a radical leftist nor an ideologue; his policies were generally marked by pragmatism, and he sought warm relations with the West as well as the Eastern Bloc.
PCT factionalism was less pronounced during the 1980s, although internal power struggles continued. Jean-Pierre Thystère Tchicaya, a leftist ideologue who was one of the PCT's top-ranking leaders, was accused of organizing a bomb plot and removed from the leadership at the 1984 party congress. A powerful faction in the party, led by François-Xavier Katali, favored a hard-line pro-Soviet position; Sassou Nguesso was able to marginalize the Katali faction at the 1984 congress. Katali was demoted to a minor government ministry, but suffered no further punishment; when he died of a heart attack in 1986, he was considered a national hero.
Serious unrest in 1990 resulted in the collapse of the PCT regime. Sassou Nguesso was forced to introduce multi-party politics in 1990 and then call a National Conference in 1991. The National Conference saw severe criticism of Sassou Nguesso and repudiated PCT rule; it set up a non-PCT transitional government and reduced Sassou Nguesso to figurehead status.
The multi-party era
The PCT was in opposition from 1992 to 1997, during the Presidency of Pascal Lissouba. Although Marxist-Leninist ideology was abandoned, the party remained loyal to Sassou Nguesso and it continued to be dominated by key figures from the single-party era. Sassou Nguesso ultimately returned to power in the June–October 1997 civil war.
The PCT is essentially non-ideological today and is simply based around support for President Sassou Nguesso and his development policies. Although it has varying levels of support across the country, its key support base remains the north; in some northern districts, support for the PCT is so overwhelming that its parliamentary candidates win "Soviet-style" scores approaching 100% of the vote.
Denis Sassou Nguesso, presidential candidate of both the PCT and the United Democratic Forces coalition, won the March 2002 presidential election with 89.4% of the vote; there were no serious opposition candidates. The PCT won 53 out of 137 seats in the National Assembly in the May–June 2002 parliamentary election; together with smaller, allied parties, it held a parliamentary majority.
At the party's Fifth Extraordinary Congress in December 2006, Sassou-Nguesso was re-elected as President of the Central Committee of the PCT and Ambroise Noumazalaye was re-elected as Secretary-General of the PCT; the Central Committee elected at the 2006 congress included more than 500 members (there were previously less than 150 members), while the Political Bureau elected on the same occasion included more than 60 members and the Permanent Secretariat included 15 members.
The political landscape in Congo-Brazzaville has been highly fractured since the early 1990s. In an effort to consolidate support for Sassou Nguesso, an initiative to "refound" the PCT as a broader party was attempted in 2006. Although backed by Secretary-General Noumazalaye, the effort encountered firm opposition from PCT "conservatives", led by Justin Lekoundzou, who wanted to preserve the PCT as a distinct party.
In the parliamentary election held on June 24 and August 5, 2007, the PCT won 46 seats; although it was again the largest party, the fractionalization of the political landscape ensured that it fell well short of a parliamentary majority. However, the combined parties of the Presidential Majority supporting Sassou Nguesso won an overwhelming majority: 125 out of 137 seats. After the election, a large grouping of parties, including the PCT, was launched in December 2007: the Rally of the Presidential Majority (RMP). While the member parties of the RMP preserved their distinct identities, the grouping provided for some degree of consolidation and improved organization among Sassou Nguesso's supporters. In the 2008 local elections, the RMP parties ran joint candidate lists.
The party had about 70,000 members in 1990; by 2005, it had about 250,000 members.
- "President wins decisive victory over pro-Soviets", Africa Confidential, 17 October 1984, pages 1–3.
- Emmanuel Mbengue, "La direction du Parti Congolais du Travail s'ouvre aux jeunes et aux femmes", Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, December 30, 2006 (in French).
- Willy Mbossa, "Denis Sassou Nguesso reconduit à la tête du comité central du Parti congolais du travail", Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, 30 December 2006 (in French).
- "Le président du Sénat, Ambroise Edouard Noumazalay est décédé à Paris", Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, 18 November 2007 (in French).
- "La dépouille mortelle du président du Sénat attendue le 23 novembre à Brazzaville", Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, November 22, 2007 (in French).