Gabon’s Presidential Election: Major Opposition Parties Nominate a Joint Candidate

Unexpectedly, Albert Ondo Ossa has been designated by the main opposition platform as the “consensual” candidate against incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba for the upcoming Gabonese presidential election on August 26.

The opponent of Ali Bongo Ondimba has been announced. A platform bringing together the main opposition parties in Gabon announced, on Friday, August 18, to everyone’s surprise, the designation of Albert Ondo Ossa as the “consensual” candidate against the incumbent president in the presidential election on August 26.

Like in 2016 with Jean Ping, who was narrowly defeated in a disputed presidential election against Ali Bongo, the main opposition leaders have once again chosen unity, seven years later, after previously operating separately.

Six candidates had joined Alternance 2023, a platform that aimed to designate a common candidate, in order to avoid the dispersion of votes in an election with 18 contestants.

Albert Ondo Ossa, 69, former Minister of Education and Higher Education of Omar Bongo Ondimba, who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 41 years, was designated by Alternance 2023 after intense negotiations on Thursday and Friday.

“I am particularly moved and I would like to thank all the party presidents,” he said, surrounded by the six other candidates, before calling for the mobilization of “all those who have suffered from this system,” just eight days before the election.

The discussions took place in the premises of the Réagir party, adjacent to the former headquarters of Jean Ping, which had been stormed by security forces following post-election violence triggered by the announcement of Ali Bongo’s re-election on August 31, 2016.

Far from being a favorite, Albert Ondo Ossa was notably opposed to three former ministers: Alexandre Barro Chambrier of the Rally for the Fatherland and Modernity (RPM), Paulette Missambo of the National Union (UN), and former member of the all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), and Raymond Ndong Sima, former Prime Minister of Ali Bongo.

Although the unity was late, the opposition recently criticized with one voice the introduction of a “single ballot” for the presidential and legislative elections by decree at the beginning of August.

This novelty allows for “linking the fate of the president and the deputy” within the framework of these two uninominal elections which will take place simultaneously on August 26, as detailed by the Gabonese Electoral Center (CGE).

With the single ballot, voters will cast only one vote for both elections, and necessarily in favor of a presidential candidate and a legislative candidate from the same party, as stated by the CGE.

Opposition and civil society appeals to the Constitutional Court, denouncing a violation of the “separation of powers,” were rejected on Monday, August 14.

“The adoption of a single ballot violates the freedom of choice of many voters,” denounced François Ndong Obiang on Friday, emphasizing the platform’s desire to “prioritize the presidential election” in order to “thwart the trap set by the incumbent power.”

Ali Bongo, 64, was first elected in 2009 upon the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, and then narrowly re-elected in 2016.

If he were to be elected for a third term, he could reach 19 years at the helm of this small Central African oil state.  AFP

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