Gabonese presidential election gets under way

Polls opened in Gabon early on Sunday in an election expected to continue the family dynasty of Omar Bongo, who ran the oil-producing nation for over 41 years until his death in June. Bongo’s son Ali-Ben, 50, is up against over a dozen candidates, but analysts say that the support of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party – and by extension the army and police – installs him as firm favourite.

Opposition candidates, who are mainly campaigning on anti-corruption and economic justice platforms, have expressed concern that the elections would not be free and fair.

Provisional results are expected on September 2, but the head of the electoral commission has warned that delays are likely due to expected complaints by the losers.

Polls are expected to close at 1800 GMT.

Omar Bongo ruled virtually unchallenged in the West African nation and gained the record of being the world’s longest serving leader – no mean feat in a part of the world where coups have long been commonplace.

He was viewed as one of the ultimate political survivors, using corruption, cronyism and lashings of oil money to keep himself at the top for more than 40 years.

Bongo died as French authorities were investigating whether he had used hundreds of millions of dollars of Gabonese public funds to buy dozens of lavish properties in France. Most of the country’s 1.5 million citizens live in poverty.


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