Gabon opposition chief slams ‘biased’ election court ruling

Jean Ping

Jean Ping

Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping on Saturday rejected what he said was an “unjust” ruling by the Constitutional Court which upheld the victory of President Ali Bongo in the Aug. 27 poll that he says was tarnished by fraud.

The refusal by Ping, who says he won the presidential poll, to accept the court ruling raises the prospect of a potentially violent political crisis in the central African oil producer.

The court had agreed to Ping’s petition to re-examine results in Haut-Ogooue province, where Bongo was declared to have won 95 percent on a turnout of 99.9 percent.

However, in a ruling late on Friday, it refused to accept copies of vote tally sheets provided as evidence by Ping, stating he had failed to prove their authenticity.

Speaking to supporters and reporters at his residence in the capital Libreville, Ping called for people to “remain vigilant and mobilised”.

“We will ensure the choice of the Gabonese people is respected. 2016 will not be 2009,” Ping said.

Ali Bongo came to power in a contentious 2009 election following the death of his father Omar Bongo, who was president of Gabon for 42 years.

Ping, a lifelong political insider in Gabon who has also served as chairman of the African Union Commission, was a close ally of Omar Bongo.

President Ali Bongo sought to ease tensions on Saturday, calling for dialogue and promising a new inclusive government.

“I look forward to inviting members of all political parties to join our efforts and come with us to the cabinet,” he told Reuters in an interview.

He said the new government would “most likely” include leading opposition figures and did not rule out the possibility of reserving a place for Ping. However, he rejected the option of international mediation.

“We don’t need international mediation. Among Gabonese, we know how to talk to each other,” he said.

Poll integrity in doubt

Gabon’s government was placed under renewed international pressure when the European Union complained on Saturday that its elections observer mission had been granted “very limited access” to the court’s review of results.

“Consequently, the Gabonese people’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral process can, legitimately, be put in doubt,” Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry of former colonial power France said Paris backed the E.U.’s position.

Six people were killed earlier this month in riots that followed Bongo’s declaration as winner of the poll by fewer than 6,000 votes.

The opposition claims up to 100 people died.

Trucks full of police and soldiers were positioned at crossroads and roundabouts across the capital from early morning on Saturday. However, there were no reports of protests.

“I’m glad there is no war. We need the politicians to talk,” said Arnel Sama, 40, an unemployed resident of Libreville.

Bongo had entered a counter-claim with the constitutional court accusing Ping of fraud.

The court cancelled results from 21 polling stations in Libreville over irregularities, helping Bongo to improve his margin of victory from 49.85 percent of ballots cast to 50.66 percent in the final court-certified result.