Gabon Votes for New President Sunday



Voters in Gabon go to the polls Sunday to choose a new president to succeed long-time leader Omar Bongo. Mr. Bongo died in June after 42 years in power.

The ruling party's Ali Ben Bongo is the front-runner in a crowded field of candidates. The late president's son and former defense minister has both the best-financed campaign, the backing of security services, and the electoral infrastructure of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party.

Bongo has urged voters to ignore rival candidates who he says are traitors and liars who will turn their backs on the country. But he has also taken a more populist approach - promising to nearly double the minimum wage and build 5,000 new homes a year.

Joel Mamboundou works in Gabon for the civil society network, The Access Initiative. He told VOA's French to Africa Service that he does not believe conditions exist for a fair vote because Gabon's ruling party is managing both the electoral process and the media.

Mamboundou says civil society groups believe government opponents should unite behind a single opposition candidate because that would maximize the chance of realizing a change of power.

Some candidates are throwing their support behind former interior minister Andre Mba Obame. But Obame is unlikely to emerge as the leading opposition contender because long-time challenger Pierre Mamboundou remains in the race.

The Union of the Gabonese People candidate lost to Omar Bongo in 1998 and 2005. He is campaigning on a platform of universal health coverage and says Gabon can not accept power passing dynastically from father to son.

Jean Mamboundou says opposition parties have failed to heed civil society's call for a single candidate because many believe they can win the election outright on their own.

Mamboundou says the ego of some of the candidates means they are unwilling to campaign for someone else. There is also the issue of coalition rule. Even if a party wins a small percent of the vote, it may be enough to make them a player in a power sharing deal.

If the electoral process is transparent, Mamboundou says, there will be no problem because whether opposition parties are united or not, at the end of the day they all want there to be a change of power.

Transparency remains a big question in Gabon. The electoral commission has registered an improbable more-than-800,000 people for this vote. Gabon has fewer than 500,000 people, 40 percent of whom are below the age of 15.

Gabon is Africa's sixth-largest exporter of oil and the world's fourth-biggest producer of manganese. But despite a per capita gross domestic product of $14,000, the United Nations estimates that 70 percent of people live below the poverty line.

Before his death in a Barcelona clinic two months ago, Omar Bongo's French bank accounts were frozen as part of an investigation into African leaders embezzling public funds. The anti-corruption group Transparency International says more than 30 Bongo family properties in France worth nearly $200 million could not have been purchased on his state salary alone.

The Bongo family denies any wrongdoing.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs