President Omar Bongo, who was head of state in Gabon since November 1967, has died. He was taken ill last month and was officially replaced on an interim basis on 6 May. He went to receive treatment in Spain, but died there yesterday.
Gabon went through a period of democratisation in the early 1990s. There was a national conference, but President Bongo was able to control the outcomes. It was during this period that Gabon became semi-presidential. A prime minister had been added to the constitution in 1975 as a sign to opposition forces within the ruling party that there would be some sort of executive power-sharing, though this was tokenistic. In 1991 the government was made collectively responsible to the legislature and, thus, Gabon became semi-presidential. Gabon has a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.
There is, nominally, a multi-party system, but President Bongo’s PDG (Gabonese Democratic Party) is the main force. Crucial to his survival for so long was the fact that France always supported Bongo, even after Mitterrand’s La Baule speech where the president seemed to tie French aid to democratisation reforms.
Very little has been written about Gabon. There is an article by David Gardiner in Journal of Contemporary African Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 2000, on Gabon’s relationship with France.