The Gabonese National Assembly and Senate met in Congress on Thursday to revise the country's constitution, reducing the term of office of the President of the Republic from seven to five years, and the election from two to one round. A change denounced by part of the opposition.
With the most recent Constitutional revisions in 2018, which instituted a two-round voting process, the amendments align all mandates at five years and return all elections to single-round balloting.
85 percent of votes in a combined session of the national assembly and senate in the capital Libreville supported the proposal, "far beyond the qualified majority of two-thirds necessary," according to assembly speaker Faustin Boukoubi.
These changes, in particular the one-round ballot, have been denounced by part of the opposition (which is currently very divided) as a means of "facilitating the re-election", potentially with a relative majority, of the head of state Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been ruling the country for over 13 years.
After 10 days of political concertation between the majority and the opposition in February, according to Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze, a settlement was reached.
Several senior opposition leaders and their parties had snubbed the talks.
Having succeeded his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, who ruled the oil-rich nation of west Africa for 41 years, in 2009, Bongo, now 64, is generally anticipated to seek reelection.
In 2016, the president won re-election by barely 5,500 votes over opponent Jean Ping, who alleged that the poll had been rigged.
In 2018, Bongo had a stroke and spent months rehabilitating, which led the opposition to doubt his suitability to lead the country.
His political party, Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) holds strong majorities in both houses of parliament and is pushing for the president to announce he will stand again.
Elections this year for the office of president, the legislature, and local offices are planned for the end of August, however a date has not yet been set.