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Gabon's Bongo Asks National Unity After Re-election Is Confirmed

FILE - Gabon's President Ali Bongo.
FILE - Gabon's President Ali Bongo.

Gabon's newly re-elected president, Ali Bongo, said Saturday that he would seek to form a new government based on a national political dialogue that will "most likely" include leading opposition figures.

Bongo spoke in Libreville, a short while after the country's Constitutional Court validated his August 27 victory, and just two weeks after opposition leader Jean Ping accused Bongo's ruling party of vote fraud and challenged the outcome.

Initial vote tallies had shown Bongo winning by 6,000 votes, but after examining voting records, the court said the incumbent in fact had won by nearly twice that margin — 11,700 votes.

Ping accused the court of "bias."

"I will not retreat," he said at a news conference in the capital, and declared he was the nation's president, "clearly elected by the Gabonese people."

"I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty," he added.

Ping based his court appeal on the voter tally in Bongo's home province, Haut-Ogooue. Officials there showed Bongo winning with nearly 96 percent of the vote, and reported that more than 99 percent of all voters had cast ballots.

The official electoral commission reported a nationwide voter turnout of 59 percent.

Earlier this month, European Union observers cited an "obvious anomaly" in election results in Bongo's home district, and said all results from that province were "consequently compromised."

The vote tallies also prompted Justice Minister Seraphin Moundounga to resign.

Bongo, 57, became president in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled Gabon for more than four decades. The son's presidency has been overshadowed by a long-running French investigation into allegations of embezzlement involving the Bongo family's assets. Ali Bongo was accused of using oil profits to enrich his family and his supporters.

Gabon straddles the equator on the west coast of central Africa and is a former French colony. Rich oil resources have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

VOA's Emilie Iob contributed to this report from Abidjan.