- Preliminary results today put a coalition of parties supporting President Omar Bongo far ahead in the last weekend parliamentary election. The Gabonese opposition nevertheless managed to capture many new seats in the Libreville parliament.
President Bongo, 70, is so far Africa's longest serving President and came to power in 1967. Mr Bongo still wants to contest for the country's next residential elections, which are scheduled for 2012, the Gabonese leader recently revealed.
His ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) - that had previously controlled 91 seats in parliament - polled 74 of the 120 parliamentary seats, according to preliminary results released today. But the pro-Bongo faction in parliament is nevertheless expected to increase its number of seats through PDG's allied parties.
Gabon's electoral commission today said that the parties allied to the PDG and in support of President Bongo are to obtain around 15 more seats. Together with the ruling party's seats, the pro-Bongo bloc therefore is set to control 99 out of 120 seats in the Libreville parliament.
Gabon People's Union, an opposition party led by Pierre Mamboundou, captured six seats while the Gabonese Union for Democracy and Development won three seats. Earlier, Mr Mamboundou had sought refuge in the South African embassy after police raided his party's offices.
Gabon is among Africa's most stable economies with high oil production but the country's wealth is said to be mismanaged by the government. During the last decade, oil production in the former French colony has been on the decline, while oil revenues have grown somewhat during the last year due to high world market prices and new explorations.
Poverty is also said to be endemic in Gabon, where over half of the population live in abject poverty despite decades of high oil revenues and a very small population. However, the opposition's attempts to divert the attention of electorate to fight poverty did not seem to yield dividends.
Accusations of fraud and vote rigging have been synonymous with all elections held in Gabon since President Bongo allowed for multi-party polls in the 1990s. Electoral observers endorsed the latest election had been held peacefully, but the opposition complains that it is not given adequate access to state media, which totally dominate Gabon's highly regulated press landscape.
The opposition over the years also has been frustrated by President Bongo's and his PDG's occasionally successful attempts of "buying" popular opposition politicians. Most of the parties now supporting the PDG earlier stood in fierce opposition to the ruling party, but top opposition leaders were given offers they could not resists, including very high positions and good business deals.
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