Gabon: Presidential election vote recount begins

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Gabon’s Constitutional Court Tuesday embarked on a vote re-count in the presence of opposition candidates who complained of fraud and rigging, during the August 30 presidential election. The decision was announced Saturday by Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo, the president of the court.

The verdict comes after Mr. Bongo’s defeated rivals held a press conference to call for a recount of the votes. According to official reports nine opposition candidates as well as a citizen, lodged 11 separate appeals calling for the annulment of the election results, alleging widespread irregularities, including swelling of electoral rolls and ballot stuffing.

Former Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong, and spokesman for the appealing group, said there had been huge manipulation of the results. “Very scandalous rigging of ballot boxes, as well as incomprehensive swelling of voting lists have contributed to falsify the vote in favor of PDG,” Ndong was quoted.

Although the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which also won the elections, does not agree with the claims, its members have remained untroubled. “The election took place openly. Whether you re-count once or 100 times, it doesn’t change the results,” PDG secretary general Faustin Boukoubi, told reporters. “Even if we were to count the vote we would come to the same result,” Gabonese Information minister, Laure Gondjout was quoted as saying.

According to the President of the Constitutional Court, the various candidates will be represented by their legal repreentaties at the recount. Ms. Mborantsuo confirmed that the recount is “almost” like a real count, only “this time voter reports from all polling stations” will be part of the process.

The opposition and the various candidates who took part in the election have lauded the Court’s decision as “courageous”. Until now, they had fiercely contested Ali Bongo’s victory. Mr. Bongo was officially announced as the winner with more than 41% of the votes.

The Constitutional Court has until October 18 to make public its decision by announcing the winner of the presidential election.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is believed to have sent a letter of congratulations to Ali Ben Bongo on his victory.

Clashes broke out minutes after the announcement of the presidential election results leading to opponents of Mr. Bongo, whose father, Omar, ruled the nation for more than four decades, calling for a recount.

On September 14, Shopkeepers, market traders and public transport workers in Gabon ignored calls to hold a national strike to protest the August election

Gabon is Africa’s second biggest wood exporter, and sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth biggest oil producer, but most of its 1.4 million people live in poverty.

As one of Central Africa’s more stable countries, Gabon since its independence from France in 1960 has had just two presidents. Its late leader, President Omar Bongo, was in power for over four decades, and has been replaced by his son, Ali Bongo. Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has largely escaped the conflict afflicting other West African states.

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