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Court Finishes Vote Recount in Gabon

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Gabon's constitutional court has finished its recount of presidential ballots. The court says it expects to rule on the validity of the vote in the coming week.

Constitutional court president Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo says the court has completed recounting every return from the more than 2,800 polling stations.

She says the court will rule on the validity of that poll in the coming week after inviting opposition candidates to present evidence of the claims of massive vote fraud by electoral officials to benefit ruling party candidate Ali Ben Bongo.

Gabon's interior ministry says Bongo won with nearly 42 percent of the vote. Former interior minister Andre Mba Obame and long-time opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou each received about 25 percent of the vote.

Obame and Mamboundou joined seven other opposition candidates in filing suit to challenging the Bongo win. But they did not take part in the recount because the court refused to allow each of them to send a political representative as well as a bailiff to observe the process.

If the court finds the results should be annulled, Mborantsuo says the election will be held again. If the court confirms Bongo's victory, he will be inaugurated.

Interior Minister Jean Francois Ndoungou told the court about the conduct of the vote.

Ndoungou told reporters outside the court that concerning the electoral list and the comportment of electoral officials during the process, he sees no call for further action by the court to challenge the outcome.

Most electoral observers believe the vote was fair despite irregularities that included security forces at polling stations, some ballot boxes not being properly sealed, and the absence of opposition representatives during some vote counting.

The election was held to replace long-time president Omar Bongo, who died in June after 42 years in power. When his son was announced as the winner of the vote, opposition demonstrators in Port Gentil burned the French consulate and attacked offices of French and U.S. oil companies.

Security forces say three people were killed in that unrest. Human-rights groups say the death toll was at least 15. Interim President Rose Francine Rogombe says an investigation is underway to determine who was responsible for the violence.