Africa

Not so fast, President Bongo

After a sketchy election, Gabon plans to count the ballots again.

Gabon’s disputed presidential election is getting a recount after weeks of unrest

The results of Gabon’s disputed presidential elections will officially go to the Constitutional Court for a recount after President Ali Bongo’s narrow win in August sparked daily demonstrations and violence, with the new government bowing to opposition calls for a transparent process.

Gabon’s Ambassador to the US Michael Moussa-Adamo announced the development in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times on Monday, writing that the winner will be declared through “a recount would be completed by the Constitutional Court.”

“The State Department and the African Union stated that any challenge to the election results conform to Gabonese election law,” Moussa-Adamo wrote. “The Constitutional Court’s review will also conform to the law.”

This week’s decision, while announced by an ambassador, was made by the court itself in response to a case filed by opposition candidate Jean Ping. It follows weeks of opposition party outcry, post-electoral unrest, and international pressure.

The August 27 vote saw Bongo secure victory with 49.8 percent of the vote compared to Ping with 48.2 percent. Critics claimed the 99.9 percent voter turnout in the incumbent’s home district were impossible and a result of voter fraud.

Bongo has been president since 2009, rising to power after the death of his father Omar Bongo, who had ruled Gabon since 1967.

Almost as soon as the polls closed, Ping, a prominent international diplomat previously serving at both the United Nations and African Union, raised concern about the vote’s legitimacy. When the country announced results three days later on August 31, he rejected the results and protests broke out in the capital city of Libreville.

Demonstrations devolved into violence, with protesters setting the government assembly building on fire. In the weeks since, at least three people have died and the government has implemented several internet blackouts, including a 72-hour block after the release of the election results.

Over the last several weeks, the African Union said it would send mediators, while the European Union has criticized the results. The United States urged leaders to find a peaceful solution to the unrest and the subsequent government crackdowns in the country.

Despite confirming that a recount will occur, Ambassador Moussa-Adamo stressed that the elections were carried out “in accord with Gabonese law.” He said voters in Gabon must use a “biometrically secure ID card or birth certificate” to register to vote and highlighted the fact that 1,200 international observers were on hand.

“All said, the election was free, fair, and transparent” Moussa-Adamo said.

The diplomat did not provide a specific timeline or starting date for the recount, but the African Union said it plans to dispatch election observers to help with the process.

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