Gabon’s president wins re-election, provisional results show

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Gabon’s president has narrowly won re-election, election officials said Wednesday, keeping alive a family dynasty in this oil-rich Central African country that reaches back to the 1960s.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba beat leading opposition candidate Jean Ping by just 1.57 percentage points, setting the stage for an almost certain opposition challenge. Both candidates had predicted a victory, and Ping’s supporters already have claimed fraud.

Security forces have fanned out across the capital. Bongo’s win in 2009 sparked looting and clashes between protesters and security forces. He came to power that year after the death of his father, longtime ruler Omar Bongo.

Wednesday’s election results came a day later than expected, prompting fears that the process had been tainted.

Bongo won with 49.8 percent of the vote, while Ping had 48.23 percent. Gabon does not have a runoff election system.

The constitutional court now must finalize the electoral commission’s provisional results.

European Union observers have criticized a “lack of transparency” on the part of institutions organizing the vote. The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, has said voters were not “well-served by the many systemic flaws and irregularities that we witnessed,” including the late opening of polling stations and “last-minute changes to voting procedures.”

The spokesman for Bongo’s campaign, Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze, called the vote “free, democratic and transparent.”

Gabon’s interior ministry has accused Ping, the son of a Chinese immigrant, of trying to destabilize the country by pre-empting official results.

On Tuesday night, a government spokesman said there was evidence Ping had collaborated with an adviser to Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara in a plot to convince electoral commission members to resign. The adviser, Mamadi Diane, denied the allegations to Jeune Afrique magazine, but Ouattara’s office said Diane had been removed from his post.

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