Gabonese are holding their breath with barely hours to the official announcement of the August 27 presidential poll results.
The Autonomous and Permanent National Electoral Commission (CENAP) will hand over the results to Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya to officially announce. The results will be known today (Tuesday,) August 30 around 17:00. (1600 GMT).
The victory calls and tension
The tension in the country does not only come from the events of 7 years ago when violence broke out in the country after Bongo won his first term. In the case of 2016, the victory calls by both leading candidates is the main reason for the tension.
Jean Ping is more outward with his victory calls, he has issued two press statements (on Facebook and Twitter), addressed his supporters in Libreville assuring them of victory. He has also claimed receiving congratulatory messages from international political players on his victory.
“I am elected,” Ping said on Sunday calling on the president to congratulate him later on Monday.
The Bongo camp has also repeatedly dismissed Ping’s assertions stating that it is the responsibility of the CENAP to declare official results and not any candidate. Bongo’s spokesman, however, said on Saturday evening that “Ali Bongo leads with a lead that can not be reversed.”
In a subtle response to Ping, Bongo tweeted as follows, ‘‘A democratic election has laws, I respect each as I will respect the choice of the Gabonese people,’‘ adding that he was never going to add his voice to people howling and hurling invectives.
The lead up to today’s declaration
The August 27 polls were preceded by tense legal tussles before the political task of wooing voters kicked in.
The opposition parties claimed that the incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba who came to power after the demise of his father Omar Bongo in 2009 was not a Gabonese by birth and hence could not stand for elections.
The Constitutional Court disagreed with the opposition and subsequently ruled that Bongo could stand for the polls. Bongo is reported to have taken a swipe at opponents for claims over his parentage.
Speaking at a campaign rally, Bongo dismissed the controversy about his parentage, noting that “the burden of proof rests on the one who makes the accusation” and arguing that the opposition was focusing on the issue “because they don’t have a good program.”
14 out of 19 candidates passed, campaigning begins
After candidates presented their applications to contest, the CENAP passed 14 out of the 19 to run for the top political post in the country.
The official campaign season of two weeks began on August 13, 2016 and ended on the August 26.
EU scathing preliminary observation
“I congratulate the Gabonese voters who expressed their democratic will in a process in which management lacked transparency,” Mariya Gabriel, head of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) said in a press release in Libreville.
The EU EOM’s ‘lack of transparency’ verdict were summarized as follows: ‘‘The most significant shortcomings observed are: the absence of voter lists posted outside the polling stations, failures in control of indelible ink, authentication of ballots and the use of sealed ballot boxes that were lack of identification numbers.’‘
The EU also denounced what they called lack of trust by all opposition parties in three major players in the electoral process. The EU said the Constitutional Court, CENAP and the Interiror Ministry all did not exude the trust expected to engender a congenial election atmosphere.
Front runners: Ali Bongo and Jean Ping
Ali Bongo Ondimba won heated elections in 2009 and has completed his first term in office. He continued the reign of his father Omar Bongo who was president between December 1967 till his death in June 2009.
Opponents of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) claim that Bongo’s continued stay in power was akin to running a one-family political system in the oil rich African country. Bongo campaigned on having built infrastructure and attracted investment to the country.
Jean Ping, a former member of the Omar Bongo government and African Union (AU) commission chairperson leads the United Forces for Change (UFC) a party that wants to reverse the leadership trend where one family has ruled Gabon for about 50 years.
Ping built political alliances with days to the vote as other candidates like Guy Nzouba Ndama, Casimir Oye Mba, Léon Paul Ngoulakia, and Aba’a Minko withdrew their candidacies to support him.
The government criticized the move to rally behind Ping as “horse trading whose only aim is to share out privilege and power”. According to political watchers, a weakening economy due to the decline in oil prices coupled with issues of unemployment had created some dissatisfaction with the government and could play to the opposition’s advantage.