- The Gabonese electoral commission has stated that the upcoming legislative elections in the country should "not be held later than 25 December" this year. The opposition has yet to decide whether it will participate in the poll, as it boycotted the last parliamentary elections, held in 2001.
The President of Gabon's National Autonomous Electoral Commission (CENAP), René Aboghe Ella, this week announced that preparations for the country's upcoming parliamentary polls soon would be needed to be made. In accordance with the Gabonese constitution, elections could not be organised later than 25 December.
Thus, there was a need to start with preparations, Mr Ella reminded national authorities. The CENAP and all its local electoral commissions by law needed to gather at least 90 days ahead of the polls, and if election day was to be set at 25 December, CENAP commissions would have to be called and instituted no later than 25 September. An election date therefore urgently needed to be fixed.
The CENAP leader invited political parties of Gabon to assign members to local and national commissions of the electoral body. CENAP is to be composed of both ruling party and opposition members, while Gabon's President Omar Bongo remains veto powers over the body's decisions.
The ruling party dominated composition and decisions of CENAP have been among the main reasons of protest by Gabon's weakened opposition, claiming that none of the elections that have maintained President Bongo's 39-year hold on power have been neither free nor fair. The electoral commission regularly is accused of helping to rig Gabonese polls.
A first test case in the upcoming election's fairness will be whether CENAP President Ella will manage to convince the opposition to send its representatives to the electoral body. The upcoming discussions with the opposition probably will be vital to the decision on whether to participate or boycott the December poll.
At Gabon's last legislative elections, in 2001, an almost united opposition decided to boycott the polls, alleging widespread rigging and unfair practices favouring President Bongo's ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). The PDG for the last five year has thus held a comfortable large majority in the Libreville parliament, with most "opposition parties" present being loyal to President Bongo.
Neither the legal opposition in Gabon, nor the militant exiled opposition has made any statements regarding the upcoming elections so far. Decisions on whether to participate or not therefore don't seem to have been taken yet.
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