Gabon: Election postponement demanded in the face of gross irregularities

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Eleven candidates standing for the pending presidential election in Gabon, scheduled to take place August 30, 2009, Wednesday asked for the postponement of the electoral exercise. The group’s proposal was rejected after a extensive negotiations with the interim head of state, Rose Francine Rogombé, and Prime Minister, Paul Mba Biyoghe. The eleven member group has indicated that the matter will be taken to court.

“In the current context, irregularities and discrepancies are too flagrant,” Jules Aristide Bourdes Ougouliguende, spokesperson for the eleven presidential candidates demanding the postponement of the election, said Wednesday. The group has denounced the poor organisation ahead of the August 30 election, the lack of reliability of the electoral list which has been found to contain some 120 000 duplicates as well as the very short time-frame set for the registration exercise. According to them, a majority of the country’s eligible voters were unable to register ahead of the polling exercise.

The eleven candidates seeking the postponement include, Pierre Mamboundou (Gabonese People’s Union – Union du peuple gabonais), Luke Bengono Nsi (Morena), Paul Mba Abessole (Rassemblement pour le Gabon – Gabonesse Assembly), Zacharie Myboto (Gabonese Union for Democracy and Development – Union Gabonaise pour la Démocratie et le Développement). The independent candidates include, John Eyeghe Ndong, André Mba Obame, Casimir Oyé Mba, Anna Claudine Ayo Assayas, Jean and Marcel Ngoua Ntoutoume Ntchoreret.

An adamant government

Prime Minister Paul Mba Biyoghe, who took part in the meeting on Wednesday, conceded the existence of certain irregularities, including the duplicates on the electoral list. “These claims are not totally false, but they are not necessarily true and do not, in our view, constitute a sine qua non” to justify the postponement of the election, he said.

He then went ahead to confirm the original date chosen for the presidential election as unchanged: “The date is August 30,” he said. According to him, the problems are, in principle, due to the fact that the electoral code did not forecast such exceptional situations as is currently being faced by electoral commission. “We will sit in a consensual manner with politicians after the elections to see how to deal with the situation,” he suggested. Observers have suggested that his words indicate a natural continuity for his government.

He nevertheless sought to reassure the candidates that most of the other problems would be resolved before the August 30 deadline.

Besides the issue of the defective electoral list, the 11 candidates also asked for the departure of Ali Bongo Ondimba from the government. The president, Francine Rose Rogombé reminded them that there is no constitutional clause to back their claim and that it is up to Ali Bongo Ondimba himself to decide whether or not he should leave his governmental functions. If ”Ali Bongo Ondimba decides to leave his current position (as Minister of Defence) because of the election, I will take all necessary steps to publicise his resignation from the government,” she said.

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