Fingers crossed for credible Gabon polls


Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Ondimba

from DIDIER NDONG in Libreville, Gabon
Gabon Bureau
LIBREVILLE, (CAJ News) – SEVEN years ago, when Gabon held its last general elections, the outcome plunged the Central African country into a deadly crisis.

This after the opposition claimed victory, in contrast to the official announcement of the incumbent, Ali Bongo Ondimba, as the winner.

Several people were killed in riots and some 1 100 others arrested after Jean Ping claimed victory over Ondimba in the closely-fought contest that had the latter announced as the victor by 49,80 percent to Ping’s 48,23 percent.

Polls held seven years earlier following the death of Ondimba’s father, Omar Bongo, after 41 years in power, were also mired in violence, Ondimba emerging the winner.

In 2019, Ondimba survived a coup attempt while seeking medical attention outside the country.

It is against this background that the international community hopes for a peaceful, inclusive and credible electoral process as Gabon heads for general elections set for August 26.

Incumbent Ondimba of the Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Gabonais, or PDG) seeks re-election.

He is one of 19 candidates vying for the top post in this country of some 2,4 million people, which is the fourth largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabonese are to vote in the presidential, legislative and municipal elections.

António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, has appealed for a credible electoral exercise.

“The UN urges all political stakeholders to refrain from any inflammatory action or speech that could undermine the process,” Guterres’ spokesperson said.

“The UN calls on all candidates to contribute to the integrity of the electoral process by overcoming any disagreements through dialogue and addressing any complaints that may arise through established legal channels.”

Gabon’s elections are to be held three days after those in Zimbabwe and hopes are that both countries hold credible polls, lest the Silencing the Guns mantra of the continent does not suffer further setbacks.

With PDG in power since independence from France in 1960, Ondimba is tipped to retain power but the close contest in 2016 suggests a close contest.

The stiffest challenge is forecast to come from Alexandre Barro Chambrier of the Rally for the Fatherland and Modernity (RPM) and the National Union (NU’s) Paulette Missambo.

A coalition between the two main challengers is a possibility.

According to the World Bank, over the course of 2022, Gabon’s economy has benefited from high oil prices.

However, the rise in global energy prices has also led to high fiscal cost which is affecting social spending for the most vulnerable and impacting the environment.

The economy nonetheless is projected to grow by 3 percent in 2023.

With effect from the upcoming poll, the presidential term in Gabon will be reduced from seven to four year.

– CAJ News




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