EU monitors: Gabon’s court failed to rectify ‘anomalies’ in presidential poll

Ali Bongo took over from his father Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon for 41 years until his death in 2009

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EU monitors have said that Gabon’s top court failed to rectify vote-counting “anomalies” in fiercely-disputed elections in which President Ali Bongo extended his family’s rule in the oil-rich nation into a fifth decade.

The European Union’s electoral observer mission said it “regretted” that Gabon’s Constitutional Court, which on Saturday ruled against opposition demands for a recount, “had been unable to satisfactorily rectify anomalies observed during the count”.

Opposition leader Jean Ping had filed a legal challenge after Bongo was declared the winner by a mere 6,000 votes in the August 27 election.

Ping, a career diplomat and a former top official at the African Union, had asked for a recount in Haut-Ogooue province, a stronghold of the Bongo family where the president was declared to have won more than 95 percent of the vote, with turnout at more than 99 percent.

The Constitutional Court in its ruling upheld Bongo’s victory and put the winning margin higher at around 11,000 votes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he had “taken note” of the court’s verdict and welcomed Bongo’s call for a national dialogue to defuse the situation.

“Such a dialogue must be representative of all stakeholders towards national reconciliation, inclusive governance, and the adoption of consensual measures for peaceful and credible legislative elections in December 2016,” it said.

Ban also called upon both sides to “demonstrate maximum restraint and fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Bongo’s family has exercised a long grip on power in the oil-rich country of 1.8 million people.

Ali Bongo took over from his father Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon for 41 years until his death in 2009.

Gabon has abundant oil, minerals and tropical timber, and its per-capita national income is four times greater than that of most sub-Saharan nations.

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