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Tight security underscores tension ahead of election results

Text by Erik CAMPANO

Latest update : 2009-09-03

Three days after Gabon's first presidential election since Omar Bongo's death, voters are eagerly awaiting the delayed results of the hotly contested poll amid beefed-up security to tackle any possible post-election unrest.

As the country awaits the presidential election results due on Wednesday evening, the security forces have been making their presence felt in Gabon.

Three candidates have already claimed victory in the election, and at the headquarters of two of them, Andre Mba Obame and Pierre Mamboundou, crowds of supporters are camped out. The third is Ali Bongo, the son of Omar Bongo, who died in June after ruling Gabon uninterrupted with his Gabonese Democratic Party for 41 years.

Across the capital, Libreville, police and soldiers are out in force in an attempt to prevent any possible civil unrest on the election results. Ordinary residents have been staying indoors for fear of any violence. Many shops and offices have been standing closed since the beginning of the week.

Obame, an independent candidate and formerly the interior minister, said there was no good reason for troops to patrol Libreville so heavily. "What could justify security forces when everyone, including France, recognises that the election took place under good conditions? Nothing. This is provocation.”

African Union calls for calm

The forces are necessary, however, according to Bongo, who was Gabon’s minister of defence until mid-August, when his campaign officially began. "It is clear that we cannot accept disorder,” he said before the election. “We shall use all the institutions that the law authorises us to use - the street belongs to no one."

African Union (AU) observers have called for calm. "The mission calls on the candidates... and the entire population to ensure peace and democracy is maintained in Gabon by sticking to dialogue," said Albert Tevoedjre, head of the AU election observer team in Gabon.

All three campaigns state that their own polling gives them victory. Obame claims 50.1% of the vote; Mamboundou, 39.15%. Bongo’s campaign refuses to release its figure, but says he has an absolute majority. Most analysts say a Bongo win is a certainty.

Election officials, meanwhile, have told the public not to believe any of the campaigns’ numbers. Rene Aboghe Ella, president of the election commission, said, "The figures doing the rounds do not in our view have any firm basis."

Date created : 2009-09-02