The Gabonese people are voting on Saturday to decide whether to give President Ali Bongo Ondimba a third term, against Albert Ondo Ossa, his most serious rival, behind whom most of the opposition has belatedly lined up.
Fourteen contenders are vying for this presidential election, with just under 850,000 registered voters out of a population of 2.3 million also called upon to vote in the legislative and municipal elections, all in a single round of voting.
At noon, dozens of voters were waiting outside polling stations in central Libreville, whose streets, decked out in the colours of the Bongo camp alone, were surprisingly almost deserted for a Saturday.
These elections are taking place in the absence of foreign media, who have been refused accreditation or entry to the country, as Reporter sans Frontières (RSF) denounced on Friday, and without international observers, both African and European.
Mr. Ondo Ossa promises to “oust” the president and his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) from power through the ballot box, and to put an end to a “Bongo dynasty” that has been in power for over 55 years, and which the opposition accuses of poor governance and “corruption”.
Ali Bongo, president for 14 years, was first elected in 2009 following the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled the country for over 41 years.
By mid-morning, Mr. Ondo Ossa was already denouncing the “malice” of the opposition on his Facebook account, claiming that the ballot papers of five opposition candidates who had officially withdrawn in his favor were still present in some polling stations, or his own absent in others.
When questioned, the Centre Gabonais des Elections (CGE), the body that organizes the polls, refused to reply and referred our journalist to the officials in charge of the polling stations incriminated by the opposition for comment.