• Gabon election results may be released as early as Monday
  • Bongo faces biggest challenge to rule from former ally Ping

Gabon’s two main presidential candidates each claimed victory and accused one another of cheating as counting of election votes started in the oil-rich nation, according to Gabonreview.com.

The election pit President Ali Bongo, who’s seeking a second seven-year term, against Jean Ping, a former chairman of the African Union Commission, who broke with the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party in 2014. Eleven other candidates were on the ballot in the central African nation that rejoined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries this year amid a slump in oil revenue.

“We are already on our way to a second term, pending confirmation by relevant authorities,” Alain Claude Bilie-By-Nze, a spokesman for the Bongo campaign, said at a news conference after voting ended Saturday, the Gabonreview.com news service reported. “We noted massive fraud in particular areas where the opposition representatives could arrive first at the polls.”

Bongo, 57, was first elected four months after the 2009 death in office of his father, Omar Bongo, who was at the time the world’s longest-serving president in a reign that started in 1967. The U.S. State Department, in a message warning citizens of possible post-election demonstrations in Gabon, said results may be announced as early as Monday night.

After surveying the results of about 40 percent of ballots cast, Ping attracted 68 percent of the vote, Gabonreview reported, citing a statement released by the candidate’s campaign.

“It is the first time we hear that authorities which organize elections complain of fraud,” Ping’s campaign said in the statement. “All Gabonese provinces are celebrating in jubilation the victory of Jean Ping.”

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