24, September 2016
Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping has vowed not to abandon his pursuit of presidency soon after the Constitutional Court upheld the narrow victory of incumbent President Ali Bongo in last month’s presidential election and dismissed Ping’s appeal.
“This decision does not bring the Gabonese people together and it does not appease them because they don’t recognize it, nor does the international community, which gives it no value,” Ping said on Saturday, hours after the court declared its final decision on the August 27 election.
The opposition leader said the court ruling was “miscarriage of justice.” Ping had declared himself the rightful president and called for a vote recount over alleged electoral fraud days after Bongo won the election with a razor-blade margin.
In its final decision, the high court acknowledged that the 57-year-old Bongo had garnered 50.66 percent of the votes against 47.24 percent for the 73-year-old Ping, while partially changing the results of the close vote by putting the margin at 11,000, almost doubling the 6,000 margin that was initially announced.
“I will not retreat. (As) president clearly elected by the Gabonese people, I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty,” Ping said.
Ping’s refusal to concede defeat raises the specter of prolonged unrest in the oil-rich central African country, which has already suffered from bloody clashes between Ping’s supporters and police over the past month. According to the opposition, some 100 people have so far lost their lives in clashes and 1,200 others have been taken into custody as part of a government crackdown.
Bongo has thanked his supporters, underlining challenges Gabon would face in the wake of the election. “The tight margin of this victory means there are many voters who, for one reason or another, did not choose us. We must decipher their message, hear and understand it,” Bongo stated.
He also said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday that he “most likely” included leading opposition figures in his new government, adding that “everything is possible.” Following the post-election chaos, the European Union and certain countries including the US and France, urged calm and called on authorities in the former French colony to show more transparency about the election results.
Bongo, who came to power in 2009, will now remain at the helm for a second seven-year term, succeeding his father, Omar Bongo, who had come to power in 1967 and passed away in 2009.