Gabon’s government announced on Tuesday that presidential, legislative and local elections will be held on August 26. Outgoing President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has ruled this small oil country for more than half a century, is widely favored to win a third term.
On Tuesday, June 27, the government approved the date proposed last weekend by the Gabonese Elections Council (CGE), responsible for organizing the polls. Gabon will therefore organize its presidential, legislative and local elections on August 26, for which outgoing President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his party are currently the big favorites in the face of a disunited opposition.
The 64-year-old head of state, elected in 2009 on the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba – who had ruled the country for 41 years – and re-elected in 2016, has not yet announced his candidacy.
But his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which massively dominates parliament, calls him his “natural candidate” and Ali Bongo has been leading an intense tour across the country for several months that leaves little room for doubt.
The opposition, meanwhile, is advancing in a very dispersed order, with around fifteen personalities having already announced their intention to run and others, including tenors, who make no secret of it.
If his opponents do not overcome their divisions in the coming two months before the election, Ali Bongo, in power for almost 14 years, will start out as the overwhelming favorite to win a third term in a one-round ballot, which will therefore decide the winner. by relative majority in this small central African state.
A decree taken in the Council of Ministers announced the “convening of the electoral college for the election of the President of the Republic, the Deputies of the National Assembly and the Members of the Departmental Councils and Municipal Councils (…) on Saturday 26 August 2023”.
It sets the deadline for submitting candidacies for the three elections to July 11 and the official electoral campaign, for the presidential election, will run from midnight August 11 to August 25.
In 2016, Ali Bongo was narrowly re-elected, with 5,500 votes ahead of opponent Jean Ping, who denounced a rigged election. The announcement of the results had sparked violence in the capital Libreville which had left at least five dead (four civilians and a policeman) according to the government – but around thirty, shot dead by the police, according to the opposition. .
A stroke in October 2018 had left Ali Bongo long months away from the political scene and part of the opposition continues, four and a half years later, to question his physical capacity to lead the country. The majority denounces campaigns centered essentially on the health of the head of state and “without any other program”.
Ali Bongo, who still suffers from stiffness in one leg and one arm, moves with difficulty but has multiplied in recent months, at a steady pace, the “republican tours” throughout the country and has participated in various international summits or official visits abroad.
The country has been ruled by the Bongo family for 55 years and the opposition regularly denounces a “dynastic power”.
In February, a forum for political consultation, shunned by the main leaders of the opposition, led to a modification of the Constitution in particular making the ballot change to a single round and reducing the duration of the presidential mandate from seven to five years.
Ali Bongo’s opponents have denounced a “tampering” intended, five months before the elections, to facilitate his re-election by a relative majority.
One of the richest countries in Africa
To date, 15-20 people have publicly announced their intention to run. This is still not the case for some of the fiercest opponents, such as Alexandre Barro Chambrier, of the Rassemblement pour la Patrie et la Modernite (RPM), former minister of Bongo father and son.
Another important opposition figure, Paulette Missambo, president of the National Union (UN) and who was Omar Bongo’s minister, does not hide her intentions and has declared, for the time being, her candidacy within a coalition, Alternance 2023, just like other tenors of the opposition who are part of it.
Gabon, which has 2.3 million souls, is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita, thanks in particular to its oil, timber and manganese. It is among the leading producers of black gold in sub-Saharan Africa, and this resource represents 38.5% of its GDP and 70.5% of its export revenues.
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But the economy, which the government is unable to diversify sufficiently despite significant progress in recent years to develop local production sectors, still depends too heavily on hydrocarbons.
“Despite its economic potential, the country is struggling to translate the wealth of its resources into sustainable and inclusive growth”, “a third of its inhabitants live below the poverty line”, analyzed the World Bank in 2022.
Source: France 24