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EU, France urge 'transparent' result in tense Gabon

31 August 2016, 15:17

Libreville - Gabon's head of state Ali Bongo came under pressure from his ruling party and the international community on Wednesday to deliver a fair result in a tight and increasingly tense presidential election race.

Bongo, running for a second term after his father held onto power for four decades, is a mere 5 000-odd votes ahead of his rival, Jean Ping, according to a vote count disputed by the opposition.

But as Gabon awaited the results, initially expected Tuesday, the ruling party's number two broke ranks, calling for "fundamentally credible results" in order to maintain peace, "the most precious acquisition of the last decades."

"The PDG (Gabonese Democratic Party) supports the position of its candidate Ali Bongo while remaining focused on keeping the peace," Austin Boukoubi said.

Many in the oil-rich nation fear a repeat of violence that followed the 2009 election after Saturday's vote that both Bongo and Ping claimed to have won.

Official results are expected to be announced later on Wednesday after a meeting of the Cenap electoral commission.

But Ping's supporters have cried foul ahead of the results being made public, while EU observers, who were barred from Wednesday's Cenap meeting, had said the vote was "managed in a way that lacked transparency".

"The European Union repeats the call made by the head of its observer mission that results should be published for each polling booth," a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Since late Tuesday, the commission has fiercely debated a disputed vote result in one of the country's nine provinces, the Haut-Ogooue, the heartland of Bongo's Teke ethnic group.

'Ensure transparency, impartiality'

A report claimed Bongo had won 95.5% of votes in the province, with turnout there at 99.9%.

Should the report's findings be accepted as official, the incumbent would be able to claim 49.9% of votes nationwide, narrowly defeating Ping's 48.2%.

In other words, Bongo would win by a tiny margin of just 5 594 votes.

Just under 628 000 people were registered to vote in the oil-rich Central African nation, home to 1.8 million people.

"They need to ensure transparency and impartiality in publishing the results, which we are waiting for," said a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry on Wednesday.

"Only in this way can the credibility of the results be guaranteed," the ministry added.

Gabon is a former French colony that exports oil and tropical hardwoods.

Bongo, 57, took over on the death of his father, Omar, and went on to win the 2009 election that was marred by post-election violence and the torching of the French consulate in the oil capital, Port Gentil.

On Tuesday afternoon anti-riot police took position around the capital Libreville and later established checkpoints in various parts of the capital, blocking access to the presidential palace.

Light armoured vehicles also began to patrol along the Atlantic coast.

Opposition delegates in the electoral commission vowed to fight for a recount, should the figures in the report be validated.

But Cenap chief Rene Aboghe Ella has rejected calls by the EU observers for each polling station to publish its results.



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