Gabon’s Justice Minister Resigns, Says Vote Recount Needed

Gabon’s justice minister quit the ruling party and handed in his resignation because the government won’t allow a recount of votes cast in disputed presidential elections.

Seraphin Moundounga told Radio France Internationale in an interview Tuesday that the country’s security was threatened since the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party refused to acknowledge demands to recount the votes and publish detailed results of the Aug. 27 election.

“If the Gabonese Democratic Party won the elections, why don’t we accept a recount if that is the price to pay for peace in Gabon?” he said. “To refuse that, it’s almost pushing people to revolt.” Moundounga urged people to quit the ruling party, which has held power over the central African oil producer since its independence from France in 1960.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said later on Tuesday that “it would be wise” to organize a recount because “one needs a clear electoral process.” At the same time, his priority is the 15,000 French nationals residing in Gabon, he told RTL radio. France has a military base in Gabon and maintained strong ties with its leadership, while Total SA pumps oil offshore.

Protests erupted in Gabon’s main cities last week after the electoral commission announced that President Ali Bongo won the election with 49.8 percent of the vote against 48.2 percent for opposition leader Jean Ping. The commission said Bongo’s victory in the nation’s closest-ever elections was due to the tally in his home province, where turnout was 99.93 percent among 71,714 voters.

Ping has rejected the result and called for a general strike following a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces that left at least three people dead. The government has suspended most internet and text messaging services and arrested hundreds of protesters. The U.S. and the European Union have urged the government to publish the election results for each polling station, rather than the results per province.

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