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Bongo's Son Wins Gabon Presidential Election

By Scott Stearns
Dakar
03 September 2009

Gabon's Interior Ministry says the son of long-time leader Omar Bongo has won Sunday's presidential election. Final results were delayed because the electoral commission was divided over the outcome.

Interior Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou says former Defense Minister Ali Ben Bongo is Gabon's president-elect.

In an announcement on state television, Ndongou says Bongo was elected with nearly 42 percent of Sunday's vote. That makes him the winner as Gabon does not have a second round of voting if no candidate wins more than half the ballots.

Bongo ran the best financed campaign and had the electoral infrastructure of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party. He has been considered the front-runner since his father, Omar Bongo, died in June after 42 years in power.

Bongo declared himself the winner before the official results were announced. So too did former interior minister Andre Mba Obame and long-time opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou.

Speaking to reporters before the interior ministry announcement, Bongo said his opponents were "agitating for nothing."

Bongo said he had the advantage of seeing results from each of the departments in all of Gabon's provinces, while his opponents, he said were basing their victory claims only on results from areas where they did well. For the ruling party, Bongo says, there is no doubt we won.

Obame says some ballot boxes were stuffed for the ruling party and opposition supporters were excluded from the vote count. Mamboundou has also accused the ruling party of cheating.

African Union observers say the vote was held in a general atmosphere of calm and tranquility despite irregularities that included the absence of candidate representatives at some polling stations, the presence of security officers around the polls, confusion about electoral laws, and the absence of officials during vote counting.

Final results were delayed when the 40-member electoral commission split over its authority to investigate returns submitted by nearly 3,000 polling stations.

The commission of electoral officials and candidate representatives met Wednesday to validate those results and was expected to announce a winner. But that proclamation was delayed when the commission adjourned late Wednesday without examining polling station results.

Thousands of Mamboundou supporters waited outside the electoral commission to hear the final results Wednesday. Security forces used tear gas to disperse them early Thursday when that announcement was delayed.



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