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Claims of vote buying mar Gabon's last day of campaigns

Claims of vote buying mar Gabon's last day of campaigns


The last day of election campaigns in Gabon on Friday was marked by accusations of vote buying with the two camps of the main contenders of the ballot accusing each other of fraud.

The incumbent President Omar Bongo Ondimba is set to face his biggest challenge yet from the former head of the African Union Jean Ping who has received backing from several opposition parties.

Both the opposition and the government camps accused each other of organizing the fraud by buying voter cards from their opponents, a practice which rights activists say is aimed at disenfranchising rivals.

The lead up to the poll has also been marked by opposition demands for the invalidation of President Bongo’s candidacy by the electoral commission.

The opposition maintains Bongo was adopted from Nigeria when he was a child and was therefore barred by Gabon’s constitution from vying for the top seat.

The case was however dismissed by Gabon’s Constitutional Court.

Located on the west coast of Africa, Gabon is substantially richer than most sub-Saharan countries but is facing rising frustration over inequality.

Bongo who has been in office since 2009, when he won an election after the death of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, has been campaigning on a platform of modernizing Gabon and transforming into an emerging economy.

His main rival Ping,74, is promising reforms and says he wants more democracy and improvements to infrastructure and health.