Gabon’s Ping meets advisers after court upholds Ali Bongo’s election win
Gabon’s government deployed a heavy security presence in the capital Libreville on Saturday (September 24) in an attempt to head off potential unrest following a Constitutional Court ruling certifying the election victory of President Ali Bongo.
Six people were killed earlier this month in riots that followed the interior ministry’s declaration of a slim victory in the Aug. 27 poll for Bongo, whose family has ruled the central African oil producer for nearly half a century.
Opposition leader Jean Ping, who has said up to 100 people died in the violence, has declared that he won the election and challenged the result, claiming fraud.
The Constitutional Court decision was read out late on Friday night in an almost empty court chamber. Shortly afterwards, Bongo made a plea for political dialogue to bring together his allies and opponents to work in the country’s best interest.
However, there was no immediate indication that Ping was prepared to accept talks.
Ping, a lifelong political insider in Gabon who has also served as chairman of the African Union Commission, held meetings with advisors at party headquarters at his home on Saturday and declined to comment directly on the court ruling.
In his petition to the court, Ping had alleged fraud in Haut-Ogooue province, where Bongo won 95 percent on a turnout of 99.9 percent.
A European Union election observer mission said it had also uncovered anomalies in the province’s results.
The court agreed to re-examine the results there with the monitoring of judges sent by the African Union, but it refused to accept copies of vote tally sheets provided as evidence by Ping, stating he had failed to prove their legitimacy. Many tally sheets, it said, were illegible.
The court cancelled results from 21 polling stations in Libreville over irregularities, helping Bongo to improve his margin of victory from 49.85 percent of ballots cast to 50.66 percent in the final court-certified result.
“The election is a masquerade. It’s the same game being played as in 2009 – always inversing the results and asking the Constitutional Court for an appeal. And what happened at the Constitutional Court? The appeal that was brought forward by my candidate, namely Jean Ping, was not accepted. It was rejected,” said Clay Martial, an opposition supporter who went to Ping’s headquarters on Saturday.
“But today, what have we given the Gabonese people? They gave the Gabonese people a masquerade election. It’s a huge and total disappointment. You can see for yourself that the whole city is calm, and it’s very dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that an election has been won but there is no excitement, no one is rejoicing, and nobody is happy. There is no enthusiasm,” Martial added.
Trucks full of police and soldiers, some of them equipped with riot gear, were positioned at crossroads and roundabouts across the capital from early morning.
There was less traffic than usual in the city centre as many residents decided to stay at home. However, there were no reports of unrest.