One of Africa’s longest political dynasties looks set to extend its half-century of rule, after sources inside Gabon’s electoral commission told Reuters the incumbent president, Ali Bongo, had won another term with 49.85% of the vote. The commission was expected to announce that the opposition candidate, Jean Ping, a half-Chinese diplomat who was previously in the Bongo family’s trusted circle, narrowly lost with 48.16%, after a fraught election that observers warned was likely to result in violence.
Ping’s party, which claimed victory soon after the vote, rejected the claimed result and demanded a recount in Haut-Ogooué, a Bongo stronghold which, according to the sources, the commission was to claim had a 99.93% turnout. The national election commission (Cenap) was due to announce the result on Tuesday at 5pm local time but delayed repeatedly. It still had not declared the winner 19 hours later.
Many Gabonese suggested that five days to count 600,000 votes was excessive. Several analysts, including François Conradie, with NKC African Economics, suspected fraud. “We think, based on what the opposition has reported and on what sources have told us about people’s voting preferences in Gabon, that Mr Ping won more votes than Mr Bongo, and this election is a one-round, first-past-the-post contest. It seems that the fight is happening within the Cenap,” Conradie said.
Residents of Libreville ventured out in the early morning to buy groceries but later stayed at home amid fears of violent protests. The army has been deployed to the capital’s streets, and opposition members reported that their houses were surrounded by police.