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Burnt-out cars outside a government building following an election protest in Libreville, Gabon, Sept. 1, 2016 (AP photo by Joel Bouopda).

Cards Stacked Against Gabon’s Opposition in Election Challenge to Bongo

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016

Most observers, myself included, expected Gabon’s incumbent president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, to win his country’s election late last month. Few, however—again including me—anticipated the degree of violence and apparent fraud that would accompany the process. Bongo is now reconsolidating power in the aftermath of an intensely contested election. If his victory stands, it will demonstrate that Gabon’s opposition has few tools with which to challenge the results, and that the international community has little will to sanction Bongo and his inner circle.

When elections were held on Aug. 27, Bongo barely won. Gabon’s electoral framework stipulated that the winner needed a plurality, rather than a majority, of the vote. With the opposition surprisingly unified around one candidate, Jean Ping, a former African Union Commission chairman and Gabonese Cabinet minister, the election became a two-man race. The official results gave Bongo 49.8 percent and Ping 48.23 percent, with eight other candidates dividing the remaining roughly 2 percent of the vote. ...

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