Security tight as Gabon waits for poll outcome

Anti-riot police and military stepped up patrols in Gabon’s capital Libreville after election officials said they would wait until Wednesday to declare the winner of a hotly disputed presidential poll.

Three rivals, including the son of Gabon’s late ruler Omar Bongo, have all claimed victory in Sunday’s election in the central African oil nation. Authorities dismissed as speculation the unofficial estimates being circulated by rival camps.

“The figures doing the rounds do not in our view have any firm basis,” Rene Aboghe Ella, president of the election commission, told reporters, adding that the commission would meet to verify the results on Wednesday.

“This is the standard timeframe, and one we have observed in the past,” he said.

Opposition leaders accuse ex-defence minister Ali Ben Bongo of rigging the poll to ensure a dynastic transfer of power from his father, but election monitors and ex-colonial power France have said they are broadly satisfied with procedures so far.

Omar Bongo’s death in June, aged 73, ended nearly 42 years of rule that brought stability to Gabon but also allegations that he lavished petrodollars on family and friends rather than using them to alleviate still widespread poverty.

Ben Bongo, 50, had long been tipped as the favourite and was quick to declare victory on Monday. But that call was disputed by interior minister Andre Mba Obame and by Pierre Mamboundou, one of the few rival candidates with no history of ties to Bongo.

A Reuters witness said anti-riot police had been deployed to Libreville’s Place de la Paix, one of the squares often used for political gatherings, while Republican Guard soldiers had joined the usual gendarme presence outside some government buildings.


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