Voting closes in Gabon where president vies to extend power
28 August 2016, 15:36
Libreville — Voting closed on Saturday evening in
Gabon, where the president is vying for re-election and voters weighed whether
to maintain a family dynasty that stretches back to the 1960s.
Ali Bongo Ondimba took power in 2009 following the
death of his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the oil-producing country of about
1.5 million people for more than 40 years. In his campaign Bongo has touted his
efforts to diversify Gabon's economy and accused the opposition of inciting
The most formidable challenge among nine opponents
comes from Jean Ping, a former chair of the African Union Commission who
managed to get several other aspirants to rally around his candidacy.
Bongo's bid for a second seven-year term is aided
by the fact that Gabon does not have a runoff system, meaning he does not have
to receive more than 50% of the votes in the first round to win.
After casting his ballot, the president told
reporters he was confident the process would go smoothly and said he hoped
"all Gabonese can vote in calm and serenity."
Ping, meanwhile, said there had been a "total
rejection" of Bongo and warned his supporters to be on guard against
The tense campaign has featured efforts to get
Bongo's candidacy annulled based on claims he was born in Nigeria and therefore
is ineligible to be president — claims Bongo has dismissed as unfounded.
Bongo's victory in 2009 sparked looting and clashes
between protesters and security forces. The office of UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon on Friday issued a statement calling on candidates to avoid "any
acts of incitement or the use of inflammatory statements."
More than 600 000 voters are registered to
participate. Voting was scheduled to end at 18:00, though polling stations that
opened late could remain open to accommodate voters waiting in line, according
to an announcement by Rene Aboghe Ella, president of the electoral commission.
Provisional results are expected early next week.