Gabon goes to the polls in presidential race

Cheryl Sanders
August 31, 2016

In a field of 10 candidates in Saturday's election, Ping, 73, is Bongo's main rival.

Bongo's announcement came just a few hours after his main rival Jean Ping had made similar assertions at a press conference held at his campaign headquarters in Libreville. "Keep your heads up and remain hopeful, big news awaits us", he added.

"The general trends indicate we're the victor of this important presidential election", Ping said according to Reuters news agency.

The results of the poll, which is decided by simple majority, should be declared at around 1600 GMT on Tuesday, Boubeya said in a later statement.

Bongo's camp has dismissed such claims as "totally insane".

"The general trends indicate we're the victor of this important presidential election", Ping said n the capital Libreville.

Except for crowds outside polling stations, the streets of the capital, Libreville, were largely deserted Saturday.

The incumbent president Ali Ondimba Bongo is running for a second term after taking over from his father in 2009 who ruled the country for 42 years before his demise.

But protracted negotiations led all the key challengers to pull out and put their weight behind Ping, with the last of them withdrawing only last week.

Both candidates based their campaigns around a promise to break with the past.

Despite boasting one of Africa's highest per capita incomes at around $8,300, a third of Gabon's population live in poverty, and unemployment among young people stands at 35 percent, according to the World Bank.

Ping faces an uphill struggle, not least because Gabon's one-round system means the victor doesn't need a majority, just more votes than any other candidate.

A career diplomat, Ping, like the current president, worked for many years in Omar Bongo's administration.

In the clashes that followed the 2009 victory, several people were killed, buildings were looted and the French consulate in Port Gentil, which saw the worst of the violence, was torched.

Ping said he had told the American and French ambassadors in Libreville that he meant to guarantee the security of Bongo and his family, who have ruled the nation of some two million people for almost 50 years.

The collapse in the price of oil has hit the Gabonese economy hard, and Ping described Bongo's attempts to diversify away from petroleum as window dressing. Efforts to broaden into agriculture and tourism haven't yet born much fruit.

During his father's rule, Gabon was a pillar of "La Francafrique", an intricate, shadowy web of diplomacy, commerce and French military might that kept African autocrats in power and gave French companies privileged access to them.

"As his son, it is hard to present yourself as something new and technocratic when the whiff of corruption hangs over from the last administration", said Anthony Goldman, head of West Africa-focused PM Consulting.

Other reports by iNewsToday