Gabon has a new prime minister. The previous incumbent, Paul Biyoghé Mba, had been in office since July 2009. He was obliged to hand in his resignation following the announcement of the official results of the legislative election and he did so. He could have been reappointed, but, instead, President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has made a new appointment.
The new PM is Raymond Ndong Sima. Jeune Afrique is reporting that he is the first PM to be appointed from outside the dominant Libreville area. Indeed, he is from the region of one of the president’s main opponents. Given the crushing, though hardly legitimate victory, of the ruling party at the election, the appointment might be seen as a sign of reconciliation. Previously, PM Ndong Sima was the Minister of Agriculture.
The legislative election in Gabon was held on 17 December. The Constitutional Council has now officialised the results. From Infos Plus Gabon, here they are:
Le Parti démocratique gabonais (PDG) – 108 seats
Le Rassemblement pour le Gabon (RPG – part of presidential majority) – 3 seats
Le Centre des libéraux réformateurs (CLR – part of presidential majority) – 1 seat
Le Parti social-démocrate (PSD) – 1 seat
l’Union pour la nouvelle république (UPNR) – 1 seat
So, the opposition has two seats in the legislature.
The results in a small number of seats have been invalidated and the elections will be re-run there.
The turnout was less than 35%.
Gabon has amended its constitution. The reform, which rewords a large number of articles, was passed in a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate by 177 votes to 16.
The reforms are mainly technical. They focus on the rules of eligibility for election and the nature of the electoral process, particularly regarding presidential elections. However, recent events in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire have shown that these ‘technical’ issues are often extremely controversial and potentially significant.
Another aspect of the reform was a slight increase in the president’s powers. Notably, the president’s powers in matters of defence and security were strengthened.
It is worth noting that presidential term limits were not reintroduced and that the single-ballot first-past-the-post method of electing the president was unchanged.
The bill that was passed by the Congress is available in French here.
Gabon held its legislative election on 17 December. The Electoral Commission does not seem to have a website, but there are seemingly verifiable reports that the ruling Parti Démocratique Gabonais (PDG) has won 114 of the 120 seats in the legislature.
The legabonemergent blog has a post that appears to report the victors for each of the constituencies and it seems to confirm the overwhelming victory for the PDG.
Interestingly, the turnout seems to have been between 30-40%, which is very low and is being taken as a sign that support for the PDG may be less great than the result in terms of seats won.
I will report full figures if they become available.
Gabonews is reporting that legislative elections, which were scheduled for some date between July and December this year, are likely to be delayed until next year to give time for a biometric test to be included in the voting procedure.
The delaying of elections sounds like a typical would-be autocrat’s tactic. Certainly, President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his government have been criticised in recent weeks. There have been localised Arab spring-like demonstrations against the regime.
However, the decision to introduce a biometric test has long been a key demand of the opposition and there is, apparently, an all-party consensus on delaying the election to facilitate this change. Presumably, the opposition do not trust the electoral register and believe that some sort of biometric test will help their cause.
Apparently the cost of the new test has been calculated and a company has been identified to carry it out. Let us hope that the reform will be implemented speedily and successfully and that a free and fair election will take place soon.
Yesterday it was Mozambique, today it is Gabon’s turn to embark upon a process of constitutional revision.
At the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, President Ali Bongo announced that revisions would be proposed that affected “three paragraphs and 36 articles” of the constitution.
Gaboneco is reporting that, among other things, the rules determining the eligibility of candidates for the presidential election will be reconsidered; the duration of any presidential “incapacity” period will be extended; the president’s authority as commader-in-chief will now include ‘the defence forces”; there will be reforms regarding the judiciary; and some changes to fundamental rights.
What does not seem to be on the agenda is a change to the method of electing the presidency. In 2003, this was amended to a single ballot majority system, which favours the incumbent and which the opposition want amended.
The constitution dates back to 1991 and was amended most recently in 2003. The up-to-date version of the text is available in French here.
Five by-elections were held in Gabon on 6 June. They were significant, so Jeune Afrique reports, because four of the seats concerned members of the former ruling party, the Parti démocratique gabonais (PDG), who are now members of the opposition. After last year’s contested presidential election (see posts below), this was the first test of the opposition’s popularity. The opposition candidates were standing under the banner of the Union nationale (UN).
Gaboneco reports that two of the seats were won by the UN and two by the PDG. Former PM, now UN leader, Jean Eyeghe Ndong, won in Libreville. Also, former Interior Minister and third-placed candidate at last year’s presidential election, André Mba Obame, also won under the UN banner. However, two other UN candidates lost heavily. In the first contest the PDG narrowly defeated a minor opposition party.
The PDG has 83 of the 120 seats in the National Assembly.
The result of the presidential election in Gabon last September continues to be contested. At the election, these were the original results for the top three candidates:
Ali Bongo Ondimba 41.73%
André Mba Obame 25.88%
Pierre Mamboundou 25.22%
Following the announcement of the results, there was some unrest, notably outside the capital in Port-Gentil. Also, the unsuccessful candidates united in condemnation of the result, with André Mba Obame being particularly vocal, saying that the result did not reflect the wishes of the people of Gabon.
Last week, the Constitutional Court examined a number of legal challenges to the result. This involved examining the votes cast, as well as hearing testimony from the different parties involved.
Anyway, on Tuesday the Constitutional Court issued its final verdict. (See a report at Gaboneco here). Here is the new result:
Ali Bongo Ondimba 41.79%
Pierre Mamboundou 25.64%
André Mba Obame 25.33%
So, the net result sees André Mba Obame move into third place. It almost goes without saying that that Court has been criticised for being too close to the incumbent regime. (Recall that Ali Bongo Ondimba is the son of Omar Bongo who ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death earlier this year).
Ali Bongo Ondimba is due to be officially sworn is as president on 16 October. Jeune Afrique reports that there was some military presence in André Mba Obame’s native town and that he has begun a hunger strike.
After a delay of a few days, the Electoral Commission in Gabon has announced that Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has won the presidential election. He is the son of the long-standing leader, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who died in June.
Jeune Afrique reports the following result:
Ali Bongo Ondimba 41.73%
André Mba Obame 25.88%
Pierre Mamboundou 25.22%
Zacharie Myboto 3.94%
There were 18 candidates in total. The rest polled poorly.
In 2003 the Constitution was changed so that the election would be held under a single-ballot simple plurality system
The African Union did take note of various irregularities during the election itself and there were major concerns over the electoral register. However, in general, the election seemed to have been conducted better than might have been anticipated some months ago.
There have been some incidents following the announcement of the results. In particular, the French consulate was burned in a town outside the capital where the opposition is strong. However, there has not been wholesale protest so far.
Paul Biyoghé Mba is the new prime minister of Gabon. He was previously the Minister of Agriculture. According to Gaboneco, he was a member of the ruling PDG party who resigned in 1990 and set up his own party, the Mouvement commun de développement, only for this party to be reabsorbed into the PDG in 2002.
The previous prime minister, Jean Eyeghe Ndong, was appointed in 2006. He was reappointed in May by the interim president, Rose Francine Rogombé, following the death of the long-time president, Omar Bongo.
The government has announced that the presidential election will take place on 30 August. Ndong resigned from the premiership following the announcement that he would contest the election as an independent candidate. He had been one of the 10 candidates for the nomination of the ruling PDG party, but this nomination went to Omar Bongo’s son, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba. There are upwards of 12 candidates according to Gaboneco. A couple of other ministers from the previous government also resigned in order to campaign independently, including Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba.
It is difficult to see anything other than a victory for Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba. However, the management of ethnic diversity may become a significant issue in the future.