Gabon court upholds presidential candidate Bongo's win after protest

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gabon's constitutional court has upheld Ali Ben Bongo's win in the August presidential election. Nine opposition candidates had challenged those results, alleging vote fraud.

After recounting results from more than 2,800 polling stations, Gabon's constitutional court confirmed the election of the son of the country's long-time leader Omar Bongo. Announcing the results on state television, constitutional court president Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo reaffirmed Ali Ben Bongo's win with nearly 42 percent of the vote.

Former interior minister Andre Mba Obame and opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou each finished with about 25% of the vote. But the recount changed their order, with Mamboundou now finishing slightly ahead of Obame.

Mborantsou said that the court annulled results from one polling station. With Bongo winning more votes than any of his opponents, she said his election as the president of the Republic of Gabon is confirmed.

The court's decision was final, and cleared the way for the president-elect's inauguration. The ruling rejects an electoral challenge by Obame, Mamboundou and other opposition candidates who accused electoral officials of massive vote fraud to benefit Bongo.

Obame has gone on a hunger strike to deplore what he called "the installation of an era of dictatorship" in Gabon. He says fraudulent results are a humiliation for the massive numbers of people who voted for change.

Bongo was considered the front-runner in the election since his father's death in June, after 42 years in power.

Former colonial power France welcomed his election, saying the vote took place under "acceptable conditions." Most electoral observers agree the vote was generally fair despite irregularities that included security forces at polling stations, some ballot boxes not being properly sealed, and the absence of opposition representatives during some vote counting.

When Bongo was first announced the winner following August's vote, police disbursed opposition demonstrators in the capital with tear gas. Protesters in the city of Port Gentil burned the French Consulate and attacked offices of French and U.S. oil firms.

Police said three people were killed in that violence. Human-rights groups say at least 15 people were killed by security forces. Interim President Rose Francine Rogombe says an investigation is under way to determine who is responsible for that violence.