Ali Bongo to be declared winner in Gabon

Ali-BongoIncumbent Ali Bongo will soon be declared winner of the Gabonese presidential election, according to an official result leaked to Reuters.

The result shows a tight race and gives Bongo a narrow victory over his challenger Jean Ping.

Ping’s camp has denounced the yet to be declared official result as fraudulent, adding that the Gabonese will not accept it.

A senior source in the commission and a member of the body allied to Ping’s camp confirmed the commission numbers gave Bongo a 49.85 percent share of the vote to Ping’s 48.16 percent.

The electoral commission was scheduled to release the results of Saturday’s poll on Tuesday evening, but by 11.15 a.m. (1015 GMT) the following day, the panel was still in a closed-door meeting.

“This is a masquerade,” a commission member for Ping’s party, Paul Marie Gondjout, told Reuters outside the commission. The opposition demanded a recount of one province that showed a turnout of 99.98 percent.

The party on Wednesday claimed to have an independent tally showing Ping won 59 percent of the vote versus 38 percent for Bongo, with only one province left to count — a claim the government condemned as an effort to destabilise the country.

“We don’t have confidence in the process. We have never had confidence in the process,” Ping’s spokesman Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi said by telephone.

“The Gabonese people will not accept these figures,” Ayi said.

Bongo’s camp said it is also confident of victory, but has warned that all parties must wait for a final decision from the electoral commission, and any who do not are breaking the law.

The European Union, meanwhile, in a statement on Wednesday called for Gabon to publish “detailed results” for every polling station and urged all actors to help keep the peace.

Gabon state TV played comments from the government warning Ping’s supporters that announcing results before the electoral commission was illegal, interspersed with music and soap operas.

“After the results, we will hand over these instances to the Gabonese judicial authorities,” the government warned in its statement, read out by several officials.

It also denounced what it said was “foreign interference”, after the French socialist party publicly said Ping had won.

With both sides trading accusations, many fear an intractable political crisis.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed concern about the issue of premature results and asked Ping and Bongo to urge restraint on their supporters.

Gabon’s first-past-the-post system means the winner only needs more votes than any other candidate. Bongo, 57, benefits from being the incumbent in a country with a patronage system lubricated by oil.

A win by Ping, a former foreign minister, African Union Commission chairman and longtime political insider, would end half a century of rule by the Bongo family. Ali Bongo was first elected in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who ran Gabon for 42 years.

Gabon’s economic troubles, caused by falling oil output and prices, have fuelled opposition charges that its 1.8 million people have struggled under Bongo’s leadership.