Gabon: A Bongo family-run Constitutional court to rule on electoral fraud

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A deadline set by the Gabonese Constitutional Court to gather electoral fraud complaints from opposition candidates, after the August 31 presidential election, ended Saturday. The court now has a period of one month to rule on whether alleged electoral discrepancies would affect the outcome of the election. Critics have insisted that the procedure has little chance of success, considering the President of the Court’s personal relationship with the Bongo family, and that the candidates are entertaining useless hopes. Opposition leader, opponent Andre Mba Obame, meanwhile, is already looking towards the future.

“Why the double standards?” questioned Mr. Andre Mba Obame, former interior minister and independent candidate in the last presidential election in Compared to the “firmness that we witnessed with respect to the Iranian elections,” France, according to him, is very silent in what concerns the Gabonese elections. “Time goes by, but habits remain,” says he, referring to the questionable Françafrique relations.

A three-day go-slow advocated by the assembly of opposition groups to contest the Gabonese election results failed to garner the popularity they had hoped for. But Franck Nguéma, opposition candidate Andre Mba Obame’s associate, claimed he was satisfied with the outcome. According to him a large number of civil servants obeyed their orders to stay home. The private sector, on the other hand, could not mobilize itself effectively “because of difficulties posed by labour laws.” Other industrial actions are “being planned” and should be announced in the coming days.

The various opposition candidates filed separate complaints to the Constitutional Court, as the ‘front to contest the Gabonese election results’ was unable to file a collective complaint. The Court has, since Saturday — when the deadline on the collection of fraud data ended, one month to decide on whether or not to accept the legitimacy of the complaints. The proof of fraud, filed by individual candidates, compare the polling station records, which were countersigned by party representatives and officials from the Permanent Autonomous National Electoral Commission (Cenap) as well as data provided by those in charge of counting the votes. The Court is expected to direct the gathered documentation from the contesting opposition members to the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), Ali Bongo’s party, to enable them respond before their (Constitutional Court) final decision.

A questionable Constitutional Court

The President of the Constitutional Court, Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo has been widely criticised for her shady objectivity. Ibinga Thomas, spokesman for the opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou, on September 11 indicated that as Ali Bongo’s mother-in-law, Mborantsuo’s “independent judgement” would prove difficult. Despite this fact, Franck Nguéma’s leader, Andre Mba Obame, has “refused to get involved in a sterile controversy” and has chosen to put his trust in constitutional justice. He, nonetheless, criticized an announcement made by Ali Bongo about plans to invest him as the head of state on Monday, September 21, as “unrealistic”. This, he says, is because the Constitutional Court would not have ample time to make the required ruling. Sebastien Ntoutoume, Ali Bongo’s spokesman, said that the son of former head of state, Omar Bongo, would wait until the Court is through dealing with complaints from the “unsuccessful candidates” before officially assuming power. Should the process take a longer time, it is highly probable that the president would be invested in October, considering that the complainants have another ten days to make their final statements.

Without commenting on the dispute which is seemingly delaying the official investment of the new president, Sebastien Ntoutoume said he is “satisfied” with the opposition’s “belated” return to legality after the “violent” protests that rocked Libreville and Port -Gentil. Opposition candidates have unanimously and repeatedly denied fuelling the riots. Thomas Ibinga told that Pierre Mamboundou and other opposition leaders were taking part in a peaceful sit-in demonstration in front of the Cenap building at the time when the results were announced. He believes their peaceful demonstration coincided with the outbreak of riots, which he thinks was spontaneous.

It should be noted that former Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame, now sheltered at the Cameroon Embassy, does not intend to announce his own results, contrary to Pierre Mamboundou. “It’s our word against theirs, it is useless,” said his spokesman. Franck Nguéma is already looking to the future, “Mr. Mba Obame is only 52 years old, he is young and intends to remain a prominent figure in politics in Gabon. Mr. Mba Obame is eyeing the next presidential election.

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