Dueling victory claims in Gabon's presidential election

The leading opposition candidate announced victory on Sunday, but a spokesman for the incumbent said that signs pointed to re-election. Officials results are expected Tuesday.

Erauds Wilfried Obangome/Reuters
Voters waiting at the polls on Saturday in Libreville, Gabon.

Gabon's most prominent opposition candidate said Sunday that early results show he will win this central African country's presidential election, though official results have not been announced.

"The general trends indicate we are the winner of this important presidential election," Jean Ping, a former chair of the African Union Commission, told reporters Sunday afternoon.

Earlier Sunday, the country's interior ministry said in a statement that it was illegal to proclaim results before the electoral commission's official results are made public — an announcement that is expected on Tuesday.

Ping is trying to unseat President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who came to power in 2009 after the death of his father, longtime ruler Omar Bongo. During the campaign, Ping said voters in Gabon were ready to turn the page on the Bongo family dynasty, which stretches back to the 1960s. "In a few hours, in a few days, we will finally be free," he said Sunday.

Yet Bongo's spokesman, Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze, said Saturday night that the president was "en route to a second term."

Both sides have accused the other of fraud at some polling stations.

Gabon does not have a runoff system, meaning whoever gets the largest share of Saturday's votes will be the winner. A total of 10 candidates participated.

The tense campaign featured efforts to get Bongo's candidacy annulled based on claims he was born in Nigeria and therefore is ineligible to be president — claims Bongo dismissed as unfounded.

Bongo's victory in the 2009 vote sparked looting and clashes between protesters and security forces. The office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday issued a statement calling on candidates to avoid "any acts of incitement or the use of inflammatory statements."

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