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Gabon rivals reach tenuous deal on poll recount

Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping gives a press conference at his residence in Libreville on September 2, 2016. Two people died early on September 2 following overnight clashes in Gabon, witnesses said, raising to five the number killed in violence that erupted after President Ali Bongo was declared victor of a disputed election. In the 48 hours since the results were announced huge crowds of angry supporters, some of whom torched the parliament, have taken to the streets. Bongo's government launched a fierce crackdown, with security forces arresting around a thousand people. / AFP PHOTO / STEVE JORDAN
Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping

Libreville, Gabon | AFP |

Lawyers for President Ali Bongo and opposition leader Jean Ping told AFP on Tuesday said they have agreed to a poll recount for August’s contested presidential vote, though the methodology remains in dispute.

“The parties have reached agreement on a vote recount,” said Ping’s lawyer Jean-Remy Batsantsa, which Bongo’s lawyer Francis Nkea confirmed, while adding there was disagreement on the extent of a recount.

“We agreed on a recount in the 2,579 polling stations” across the country, Bongo’s lawyer said.

“We must avoid discriminating between Haut-Ogooue and the eight other provinces.”

Ping went to the Constitutional Court on September 8 to demand a recount in the province of Bongo’s fiefdom Haut-Ogooue, where the incumbent received 95 percent of the vote on a 99 percent turnout in the August 27 poll.

Bongo was proclaimed the winner of the vote by a razor-thin margin of just under 6,000 votes, triggering violent protests as the opposition cried foul.

Jean-Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, a spokesman for Ping, said the opposition wanted to see the court sift through all vote counts rather than just those signed off by the electoral commission.

But Nkea responded: “The law says a recount is on the basis of official counts… (meaning) the electoral commission’s.”

After the result was announced, Ping warned of serious instability if the court — which has 15 days to decide amid rumours of a delay — rejected his recount appeal.

Bongo responded by saying that Ping had indulged in a “violent campaign of lies and denigration” which was to blame for post-poll unrest.

An EU election observer mission earlier said there was a “clear anomaly in the final result in Haut-Ogooue”.

Ping compared the Supreme Court the Tower of Pisa “because it always leans to the side of the ruling power”.

But he also told supporters “2016 is not 2009”, a reference to the last presidential election when the Constitutional Court upheld Bongo’s victory.

The Central African nation has been ruled by the Bongo family since 1967.

 

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