African Contested Election Could Escalate

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The Central African country of Gabon is in the middle of a Presidential election. The current leader, Ali Bongo, succeeded his father 14 years ago and is seeking his third term.

While Bongo maintains a sheen of legitimacy, his previous elections have been mired with scandals and reports of vote rigging. France 24 reports:

The Central African nation was holding presidential, legislative, and local polls simultaneously for the first time with tensions running high amid fears electoral system changes could sow doubt about the legitimacy of the result and provoke unrest.

Bongo, 64, who succeeded his father Omar in 2009, is seeking a third term against 18 challengers, six of whom backed a joint nominee in an effort to narrow the race.

The Bongo family has held power in Gabon since 1967, making them a key player for the West to deal with. The opposition has often criticized Bongo’s close ties to France, and his quasi-dictatorial rule accepted by Gabon’s former colonial overlord. Africa News has more:

These elections are taking place in the absence of foreign media, who have been refused accreditation or entry to the country, as Reporter sans Frontières (RSF) denounced on Friday, and without international observers, both African and European.

Mr. Ondo Ossa promises to “oust” the president and his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) from power through the ballot box, and to put an end to a “Bongo dynasty” that has been in power for over 55 years, and which the opposition accuses of poor governance and “corruption”.

The West is not seriously pressuring Bongo, while Niger’s own military strongman is under fire by both France and the United States. Selectively applying democratic values on certain African nations could cause further resentment against a “hypocritical” West.

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