Ali Ben Bongo, son of Gabon’s late ruler Omar Bongo, declared victory yesterday in the central African oil nation’s presidential election but two opponents disputed his call and said they had won.
Authorities deployed anti-riot police around the capital Libreville and urged the country to stay calm while the count was being completed. Official results of Sunday’s poll are not expected today.
Opposition leaders accuse ex-defence minister Ben Bongo of rigging the poll to ensure a dynastic transfer of power from his father, but election monitors and ex-colonial power France said they were broadly satisfied with procedures so far.
“Information received today from various constituencies across Gabon and abroad make me easily the winner,” Ben Bongo told a news conference at the headquarters of his ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).
“I thank all those, the youth and the women, in the nine provinces who accompanied me in this victory and who granted me their overwhelming support,” he added. He gave no projections for the poll and the electoral commission said separately it could take until Wednesday to announce full results.
The French Foreign Ministry welcomed what it called the good organisation and high turnout of Sunday’s election “despite certain technical difficulties”. A number of voters complained of several hours’ delay at some polling stations on Sunday.
“We have faith that the process will continue calmly through to the announcement of results,” the ministry said.
Analysts had long tipped Ben Bongo, 50, as the favourite but he faced a last-minute challenge as some candidates dropped out to rally behind ex-interior minister Andre Mba Obame.
Investors have played down the risk of serious post-election instability in the country of 1.5 million, which hosts oil firms such as France’s Total and US-based Vaxalco
However there were some street protests before the poll and further unrest was seen as possible given the likelihood of the results being disputed.
Obame’s camp had already declared victory overnight while Pierre Mamboundou, one of the few candidates with no history of ties to the Bongo family, also staked his claim.
“We are ahead by a long way,” Mamboundou aide Emmanuel Koumba told Reuters.
He said Mamboundou led in eight of nine provinces in the country but did not elaborate or give a source for his information.
Bongo’s death in June, aged 73, ended nearly 42 years of rule that brought stability to his tiny country but also allegations he lavished petrodollars on family and friends rather than using them to alleviate poverty.
Analysts say any successor will have to cope with dwindling oil reserves that will mean the loss of some revenue in the sector, which currently accounts for half of national output.
Pic: Newly appointed president Ali Ben Bongo of Gabon