Gabon’s main opposition parties choose joint candidate for presidential vote

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Major opposition parties in Gabon on Friday backed a single candidate for the Aug. 26 presidential election, joining forces in the hope of beating President Ali Bongo and ending his family’s 56-year grip on power.

Of the 19 candidates on the ballot, five have agreed to support the candidacy of former minister and university professor Albert Ondo Ossa, according to their opposition alliance known as Alternance 2023.

“Gabon is not the property of (President) Bongo Ondimba,” Ondo Ossa said at the meeting in the capital Libreville to announce a joint candidate.

“We are going to fight with the means that the constitution offers us. We must have free and transparent elections.”

Bongo, 64, has been president of the oil-producing nation for two seven-year terms since succeeding his father Omar, who died in 2009 after ruling since 1967. Gabon has no constitutional term limits.

Both of his election wins were disputed by the opposition, who said he won fraudulently. His 2016 victory triggered deadly clashes between police and protesters during which the parliament building was gutted by fire.

(Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Diane Craft)