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    Rival Claims of Electoral Victory in Gabon

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    Gabon's interim leader is calling for calm as three leading candidates from Sunday's presidential vote are all claiming victory.  

    Interim President Rose Francine Rogombe says there will be only one winner in Gabon's presidential election.  As voters wait for official results, she is calling on everyone to show maturity.

    Rogombe says Gabon is a country of peace, and people should refuse to be manipulated by losing candidates into demonstrating against the winner.  She says violence is not the Gabonese way unless they are provoked.

    Rogombe says any candidates who calls for violence in the street is neither responsible nor a democrat.  In a democracy, she says, people have to accept both winning and losing.

    Three candidates from Sunday's vote are already declaring victory.

    Former defense minister Ali Ben Bongo led a crowded field to replace his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June after 42 years in power.  The late president's son had both the best-financed campaign and the electoral infrastructure of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party.

    Faustin Boukoubi, the party's secretary general, says the ruling party is absolutely certain of victory, but in respect for the law, it is waiting for official results.  About 40 percent of Gabon's voters are in the capital Libreville where Boukoubi says the race is tight. But outside Libreville, Boukoubi says Bongo won a large proportion of the vote.

    Long-time challenger Pierre Mamboundou finished second to Omar Bongo in 1998 and 2005.  This time he says he has come out on top and expects to be Gabon's next president.

    Mamboundou says there is no way that Ali Ben Bongo can win because he shares responsibility for all the 42 years of his father's rule.  Mamboundou says he can not see how Gabonese who remember all those years could vote for the late president's son.

    On the eve of the election, several candidates withdrew their ballot papers and announced their support for former interior minister Andre Mba Obame, who broke away from the ruling party when it chose the late president's son as its nominee.

    According to results gathered by his campaign, Obame says he has about 55 percent of the vote nationwide and is waiting for the electoral commission to announce him as the official winner.

    Obame's television station was taken off the air Sunday by the National Communications Council because the station said it would carry live coverage of election returns.

    Local and foreign journalists in Gabon are prohibited from speculating about results or voting trends, and may only report returns announced by the interior ministry on state-run media.

    The country's land and sea borders remain closed until Thursday.    


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