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Gabon to Recount Presidential Votes

Gabon to Recount Presidential Votes
Gabon to Recount Presidential Votes

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Gabon begins recounting presidential votes following an electoral challenge by opposition leaders, who say the results are fraudulent.  

Constitutional Court President Marie Madeleine Mboramsou'o ordered the recount after an opposition lawsuit claimed that results from two-thirds of polling stations were fraudulent.

Mboramsou'o says each of the returns from all of the more than 2,800 polling stations will be recounted, in the presence of legal representatives chosen by opposition politicians.

Ruling party candidate and former Defense Minister Ali Ben Bongo has been declared the winner of last month's vote, with nearly 42 percent of ballots cast.  Former Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame and opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou each finished with about 25 percent of the vote.

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The constitutional court recount follows an electoral challenge by Obame, Mamboundou and several other candidates, who accuse electoral officials of vote fraud to benefit Mr. Bongo. The court has until October 18th to rule on that challenge.

Mboramsou'o says, if the court finds the results should be annulled, the election will be held again.  She says, if the court confirms the results the candidate who was initially declared the winner will be inaugurated.

Mr. Bongo is the son of long-time Gabonese leader Omar Bongo.  He was considered the front-runner since his father's death in June and ran the best-financed campaign, aided by the electoral infrastructure of the ruling party.

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

Following the announcement of Mr. Bongo's win, opposition demonstrators in Port Gentil burned the French Consulate and attacked offices of French and American oil companies. The government says three people were killed in that violence. Opposition groups put the death toll at at least 15.

Interim President Rose Francine Rogombe says an investigation is underway to determine who was responsible for that violence.

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