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.
Gabon announced on Tuesday (June 27) the holding of its presidential, legislative and local elections on August 26, with outgoing President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his party currently heavy favorites in the face of a divided opposition.
The 64-year-old head of state, who was elected in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba – who had ruled the country for 41 years – and re-elected in 2016, has yet to announce his candidacy.
But his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which massively dominates parliament, calls him his “natural candidate” and Ali Bongo has led an intense tour across the country for months that leaves no room for doubt.
The opposition, meanwhile, is advancing in a very scattered order, with about fifteen personalities already announcing their intention to run, and others, including tenors, making no secret of it.
If his opponents do not overcome their divisions in the coming two months before the election, Ali Bongo, who has been in power for almost 14 years, will start as the overwhelming favorite to win a third term in a round of voting that will therefore decide the winner with relative majority in this small Central African state.
A decree passed 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 department councils and municipal councils on Saturday, August 26, 2023”.
It sets the deadline for submitting candidates for the three elections to July 11, and the official election campaign, for the presidential election, runs from midnight on August 11 to August 25.
In 2016, Ali Bongo was narrowly re-elected by 5,500 votes ahead of opponent Jean Ping, who denounced a fraudulent election. The publication of the results had sparked violence in the capital, Libreville, which had left at least five dead (four civilians and one 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 out of the political scene for many months, and part of the opposition continues, four and a half years later, to question his physical ability to lead the country. The majority condemns campaigns mainly centered on the health of the head of state and “without any other agenda”.
Ali Bongo, who still suffers from stiffness in one leg and one arm, moves with difficulty, but in recent months has steadily multiplied the “republican tours” throughout the country, attending 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 rejected by the main opposition leaders led to an amendment to the constitution, notably changing the ballot to a single round and reducing the duration of the president’s mandate from seven to five years.
Ali Bongo’s opponents have condemned a “manipulation”, five months before the election, to facilitate his re-election with 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 Modernité (RPM), former minister of Bongo father and son.
Another important opposition figure, Paulette Missambo, president of the National Union (FN) and who was Omar Bongo’s minister, does not hide her intentions and has so far declared her candidacy within a coalition, Alternation 2023, like other tenors. of the opposition, which is part of it.
Gabon, which has 2.3 million souls, is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita. per capita, especially thanks 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 earnings.
But the economy, which the government is unable to adequately diversify despite significant progress in recent years to develop local manufacturing sectors, remains too dependent on hydrocarbons.
“Despite its economic potential, the country struggles 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.