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Moyen-Congo - Political Parties

The new political institutions and the limited forms of democracy that were introduced after World War II provided the impetus for the formation of political parties in AEF. Some of the early parties were simply extensions of metropolitan political parties; others were affiliated with West African movements, such as the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Democratique Africain—RDA) ; and still others were peculiar to equatorial Africa. Several smaller parties appeared during electoral campaigns only to disappear shortly afterwards.

In 1946 Jean-Felix Tchikaya founded the Congolese Progressive Party (Parti Progressist Congolais—PPC) as the Moyen-Congo branch of the RDA. At that time the RDA was allied with the French Communist Party; the PPC, however, was essentially a tribal-based party with most of its support coming from the Vili of the regions of Pointe-Noire and Niari.

The party that gave the PPC the most competition in the years before 1956 was the Congo branch of the French Socialist Party (Section Frangaise de I' internationale Ouvriere—SFIO), which was led by a civil servant, Jacques Opangault. Also having a tribal base, the SFIO, which was known after 1957 as the African Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialist Africain—MSA), drew most of its support from members of the Mboshi tribe in the northern region of Moyen-Congo and from Poto-Poto, the Mboshi quarter of Brazzaville. The greater share of political activity from 1946 to 1956 centered on these two essentially tribal parties, the PPC and the SFIO. During this time the numerically important Kongo group remained generally aloof from active politics. It was within this group, that the influence of Matsoua had been strongest, and a 1949 estimate indicated that nine-tenths of the Kongo population were in sympathy with the movement. Alienated from the administration and unable to consider the Vili or Mboshi candidates their own, those Kongo, particularly the Lali subgroup, who bothered to vote at all in the elections wrote in the name of Andre Matsoua.

It was not until 1956, when Fulbert Youlou, a parish priest of Lali origins, entered upon the political scene that the followers of Matsoua were awakened from their political apathy. When Youlou made himself a candidate for the National Assembly in opposition to Opangault and Tchikaya, the Roman Catholic bishop forbade Catholics to vote for him. Youlou, however, was accepted by many of the Kongo as the spiritual heir of Matsoua.

The campaign took on a tribal character and resulted in rioting among the supporters of the three candidates. Tchikaya won a narrow and disputed victory, but Youlou became an important figure in Congolese politics. In November he was easily elected as the mayor of Brazzaville, and candidates who had his support in Pointe-Noire won over candidates of the PPC. Youlou organized his own political party, the Democratic Union for the Protection of African Interests (Union Democratique de Defense des Interets Africains—UDDIA), which rapidly drew support away from the PPC. Interest ran especially high in the territorial assembly elections scheduled for March 1957, since, under the 12,forms of the loi cadre, the party controlling the assembly woulC. control the proposed gov-ernment council. The contest developed between UDDIA, run by Youlou, and the MSA, controlled by Opangault. Tchikaya's party, the PPC, had lost much of its support to the UDDIA, and in some regions it formed an alliance with the MSA to oppose the UDDIA candidates.

The results of the elections demonstrated the strong regional bases of the political parties; the regions north of the Lefini River voted overwhelmingly for MSA candidates, whereas almost all of the southern regions supported the UDDIA. Of the forty-five assembly seats, the MSA and its smaller affiliated parties obtained twenty-three seats and the UDDIA won twenty-two. There were four Europeans among the MSA delegates and five among those of the UDDIA.

Opangault, with his one-vote margin, became the president of the Moyen-Congo's first government, forming a tenuous coalition by which he maintained control for a period of twenty months. Youlou asked for and received the position of minister Of agriculture, a post that provided frequent opportunities for him to tour the country in an official capacity, thereby increasing his public contacts and personal prestige.

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