|Next Election date||August 30,2009|
|Date of last election||January 18, 2009 (Senate)|
|Ruling party||PDG (Gabonese Democratic Party)|
|Last election results||PDG=75 seats
Rally for Gabon=6 seats
Omar Bongo, Gabon's longest ruling President, came into power in 1967 and died in Spain after suffering with an internal illness on the June 8, 2009. For much of the latter part of the twentieth century, Gabon can be associated with Bongo's grip on power within the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). Despite Bongo's often undemocratic style of rule, he was seen as a father-type figure to the nation and also as a man of peace, as he was involved in a number of peace negotiations on the continent. Bongo was able to maintain the country's stability despite it being geographically situated next to the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo. This was mostly achieved through Bongo's tight regulation of the different ethnic and political groups in the country. Bongo's rule is also associated with Gabon's connections with former coloniser France. Often described as "a French satellite State" Bongo's rule over Gabon was reportedly propped up by various French Presidents, whom Bongo considered as allies, in return for economic concessions in the oil-rich African State. These reports often led to Bongo being called a "French puppet" by the opposition, with persistent accusations of corruption and cronyism directed towards the Gabonese leader.
Despite some analysts likening the Bongo administration to other undemocratic regimes such as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Bongo achieved success in implementing legislation that promoted gender equality, as well as integrating compulsory primary education to the country. Despite these successes, Bongo's legacy has left the country's civil society with an entrenched system of corruption and nepotism that will provide the State's new leader with a difficult task of rectifying.
Gabon was considered a single party State after receiving independence from France in 1960 and only started to hold democratic multiparty elections in 1993. Despite French troops being brought in to curb domestic unrest during the elections, there were accusations of vote rigging. The following elections of 1998 brought with it similar accusations of electoral fraud. Despite the introduction of democratic elections, Bongo's PDG party continued to dominate Gabonese politics by retaining its vast majority of seats in Parliament.
Following Bongo's death, an interim government, lead by Rose Francine Rogombe, took over power and assumed the responsibility of organising a Presidential election within the constitutionally prescribed period of 45 days. There is a clause in the Gabonese constitution, however, that allows for this period to be extended in the result of unforeseen circumstances, which Ragombe considered using. The fear that a significant delay might induce a power vacuum and incite violence between opposition groups, however, caused Ragombe to schedule elections for the August 30, 2009.
1) Ali Ben Bongo
Considered to be the favourite in the upcoming election, Ali Ben Bongo, Gabon's Defence Minister and vice-President of the ruling PDG Party, has pledged to fight corruption if voted into power. Being the son of the late Omar Bongo, there is rising opposition against him becoming President as the competing candidates are determined to not let the country become a so-called monarchy. In addition, there is growing opinion in the country that Bongo is too elitist and out of touch with the Gabonese people. This is attributed to his schooling in France and his inability to speak any of the native languages.
There has been some high-level opposition, particularly from candidates within the PDG, to Bongo's candidacy for President. An example of such protest includes the resignation of Jean Eyeche Ndong, Gabon's Prime Minister, from the ruling PDG and his decision to run as an independent candidate.
In addition, three prominent figures within the PDG namely, Andre Mba Obame, Mehdi Teale and Casmir Oye Mba, have presented their independent candidacy for the upcoming elections.
2) Andre Mba Obame
Considered to be the strongest candidate to challenge Bongo at the polls, Mba Obame has received growing support from a number of independent candidates. In total, there are 23 candidates contesting the election. Eleven of these candidates, including Ndong and Oye Mba, have thrown their support behind Mba Obame. If elected, Obame has pledged to invigorate the economy and focus on economic growth in order to promote better wealth redistribution patterns.
3) Pierre Mamboudou
Perhaps not as strong a candidate in terms of support as Bongo and Obame, Pierre Mamboudou, who came second in Gabon's last Presidential election in 2005, believes he has an equal chance of winning the election. He advocates a good healthcare system for all. Mamboudou argues that Bongo does not have what it takes to fill his father's shoes. He has also expressed concern over electoral fraud and Bongo's monopoly of the media.
4) Zacharie Myboto
If victorious, Zacharie Myboto plans to enforce the rule of law and drastically reduce government spending. He has spoken out against Bongo and expressed concern over the transparency of the upcoming elections.
From the evidence above it is clear that Bongo's main opposition is not derived from opposition outside the ruling party, but rather from high-level breakaway candidates within the PDG itself. This shows a distinct trend that what was once a united Gabon under Omar Bongo and the PDG, has now splintered into various opposition factions. It is these factions that make electoral violence a real threat in Gabon. Strict monitoring and scrutiny of the electoral process is therefore of critical importance in order to achieve a free and fair result and if election violence is to be avoided.
Consultancy Africa Intelligence, Election Reflection Gabon (2009)
Consultancy Africa Intelligence, "Gabongo": The Future of Gabon after Bongo (2009)
Polity. Gabon's Bongo declared winner of presidential poll. (September 3, 2009)
Polity. Gabon opposition leader injured, party rejects poll. (September 3, 2009)
Polity. Gabon tightens security after post-poll clashes. (September 4, 2009)
Polity. Gabon opposition demands poll recount, inquiry. (September 8, 2009)