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Next Step Unclear for Gabon's Jean Ping


Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping arrives at his party headquarters in Libreville, Aug. 28, 2016.

Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping arrives at his party headquarters in Libreville, Aug. 28, 2016.

Gabon’s president Ali Bongo is due to be sworn in on Tuesday after the country’s highest court validated his re-election Friday. Opposition leader Jean Ping rejected the court’s ruling and said he "will not retreat" but his next steps are unclear.

Bongo has called for political dialogue after this month’s contentious election.

Ping also claimed to have won the August 27 poll. He called the Constitutional Court's ruling on Friday "a miscarriage of justice."

But his options now are limited, says Paul Melly, West and Central Africa analyst at London-based Chatham House.

“Jean Ping is probably realistic. He knows that in the normal constitutional process, it is highly unlikely that there is any possibility for the election results being reversed…So I think what Jean Ping is trying to do is to maintain the political pressure on Ali Bongo,” he said.

Ping is a former ally of Bongo’s father, who ruled the country for over four decades until his death in 2009.

Deadly violence erupted in Libreville earlier this month after the electoral commission announced that Bongo had beaten Ping by a margin of just under 6,000 votes.

France joined Ping in calling for a recount of ballots in disputed areas. The United States called for the release of results by polling station. The government refused. The European Union continues to express concern about the fairness of the poll.

Gabon's President Ali Bongo addresses reporters at Nairobi National Park near Nairobi, Kenya, April 30, 2016.

Gabon's President Ali Bongo addresses reporters at Nairobi National Park near Nairobi, Kenya, April 30, 2016.

Analysts say Bongo has also faced pressure at home with several members of the ruling party defecting even before the vote.

“He had, in his first term, tried to position himself as a reformer, and he made some progress with that. But it was patchy," said Melly. "And it may be that now, the combination of international pressure and domestic political pressure, would force him to make wider concession, for example we could imagine that in municipal elections or parliamentary elections… He might have to cede a genuinely transparent and credible process in those types of vote.”

Analyst Gilles Yabi, founder of the West African think tank WATHI, says electoral reforms could very well be on the table during the proposed political dialogue.

Yabi says that we could imagine that at some point a deep reform of the Gabonese electoral system will have to be discussed, including the lack of presidential term limits and the current practice of a single-round election. He says reforms would be needed to open the way for a change in leadership through credible and transparent election results.

Ping has not said whether he will answer Bongo’s invitation for political dialogue.

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