Gabon opposition urges Bongo to concede poll defeatMon, 28 Aug 2023 20:21:55 GMT

Supporters of Albert Ondo Ossa, main rival to incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba in Gabon’s presidential election, on Monday urged the head of state to concede defeat and organise a handover, saying their man had won.The Alternance 23 opposition platform has swung behind Ondo Ossa, seeking to deny Bongo, 64, and the scion of a family that has ruled for 55 years, a third term. Saturday saw the authorities cut internet access and impose a nighttime curfew as voting drew to a close in the oil-rich central African state of some 2.5 million people.That prompted opposition supporters and Ondo Ossa, an economics professor chosen as a joint candidate by Alternance 23, to denounce the election a “fraud orchestrated by Ali Bongo and his supporters” and demand the challenger be declared the winner.”We call on our compatriots who gravitate around those in power (who are) more devoid of legitimacy than ever, particularly those around Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba” to “bow humbly to the will of the Gabonese people,” Ondo Ossa’s campaign manager Mike Jocktane told a press conference in Libreville.”What is now expected of Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba is that he accepts the sovereign choice of the Gabonese people, that he respects it and that he organises, without bloodshed, the transfer of power to Professor Albert Ondo Ossa,” said Jocktane, insisting a partial count had Ondo Ossa clearly ahead.Gabonese law forbids any publication of partial results pending the final result which only the Centre Gabonais des Elections (CGE), the body that organises the polls, is allowed by law to publish.Communications Minister Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou had Saturday insisted the internet was cut to “counter the spread of calls for violence… and false information”, amid a spate of opposition claims that Ondo Ossa’s name was missing from ballot papers in some polling stations.The CGE has several times refused to indicate to AFP how the count is progressing or when the release of official results may be expected.The internet remained off late Monday while the police and the military had for a second night installed barriers throughout the capital to ensure the curfew is respected.As well as electing a president, Gabon’s 850,000 voters were also choosing candidates for the legislature and local councils.Opposition parties beforehand denounced a late change to voting rules in the legislative race under which any vote for a local deputy would automatically also be for that deputy’s presidential candidate, noting this could hamper Ondo Ossa as he is not backed by any single party.Earlier Monday, French media outlets RFI and France 24 expressed “incomprehension” after their operations in Gabon were banned after authorities accused them of “a lack of objectivity and balance… in connection with the current general elections”.