Gabon Elections Marked by Delays and Political Maneuvering
Challenges at Polling Stations
During Saturday’s presidential, legislative, and local elections in Gabon, certain voters encountered delays as the opposition aimed to thwart President Ali Bongo’s quest for a third term and his family’s six-decade hold on power.
Unity Amidst Competition
Out of the 18 contenders challenging Bongo, six major opposition parties have joined forces by endorsing a single nominee, aiming to streamline the competition.[news_related_post]
Hitches in Voting Commencement
Although voting was scheduled to start at 8 am local time (07:00 GMT) across the country, significant delays were observed at various polling stations in the capital, Libreville. Reports from social media indicated a mixed situation, with some areas witnessing the start of voting while others awaited the opening of their polling centers.
Post-Election Period Concerns
Vote counting is set to begin after polls close at 6 pm (17:00 GMT), yet the timeline for the release of preliminary results remains uncertain. These delays could amplify worries about the post-electoral phase, which has previously experienced unrest due to opposition disagreements with the outcome.
Crucial Test for Bongo
Judgment of Bongo’s Leadership
The elections serve as a pivotal assessment of President Bongo’s popularity after completing two seven-year terms. Criticism has emerged regarding his perceived inadequate efforts to address poverty among the third of Gabon’s population living in destitution. Skepticism also lingers about his capabilities following a 2018 stroke.
Campaign Promises and Unresolved Tensions
To counter such concerns, Bongo embarked on an expansive campaign trail, promising job creation, enhanced micro-loan initiatives, and reduced public school fees. Despite a relatively smooth lead-up to the elections, fears persist that post-election unrest akin to the protests that followed Bongo’s 2016 victory could recur. The opposition has previously contested his wins, alleging fraudulent practices.
Changing Dynamics in the Electoral System
Recent alterations to the voting system, including a single ballot requiring selection of both a presidential candidate and a politician from the same party, have introduced potential complexities to the aftermath. Analysts anticipate that these changes may heighten tensions, possibly leading to disputes and even violence in the election’s aftermath.
Opposition Gains Momentum
While Bongo’s camp positions him as the likely winner, his prominent challenger is joint opposition candidate Albert Ondo Ossa, a 69-year-old economics and management professor. Ondo Ossa’s emphasis on change and improved economic prospects resonates with a populace largely shaped by Bongo’s lengthy rule. The final rallies of both Bongo and Ondo Ossa drew significant crowds in Libreville, setting the stage for a pivotal political decision for Gabon.