Gabon cuts presidential term to five years before election

The Bongo family has ruled the country for 55 years already and is branded a "dynastic power" by the opposition

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba looks on during the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the Africa Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on February 18, 2023. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

Five months before elections, the parliament in Gabon on Thursday voted to reduce the president’s term from seven to five years. The vote amends the Constitution and also turns the presidential election into a single round.

Sections of the opposition criticized the changes, in particular the end of two rounds of voting, as a means of “facilitating the re-election” of Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The national assembly and senate held a joint session in the capital Libreville where 85 percent of votes backed the proposal, “well above the qualified majority of two-thirds required,” said assembly speaker Faustin Boukoubi.

Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze said the outcome was the “result of a consensus after 10 days of political concertation between the majority and the opposition” in February.

Several senior opposition leaders and their parties had snubbed the talks.

The amendments bring all mandates in line at five years and make all elections single-round ballots again after the last changes to the Constitution in 2018 set up two rounds of voting.

Presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for the end of August, but a date still has to be announced.

In 2009, the now 64-year-old Bongo took over from his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, the oil-rich west African country’s ruler for 41 years, and he is widely expected to run for re-election.

The president was narrowly re-elected in 2016 with just 5,500 votes more than rival Jean Ping who claimed the election had been fixed.

Bongo suffered a stroke in 2018 and spent months on the sidelines recovering, leaving the opposition to question his fitness to run the nation.

His powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) holds strong majorities in both houses of parliament and is pushing for the president to announce he will stand again.

The Bongo family has ruled the country for 55 years already and is branded a “dynastic power” by the opposition.

But the opposition has failed to agree on a single candidate for the presidential election, leaving some 15 candidates to announce their intentions to stand.


© Agence France-Presse

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