Gabon’s Bongo Sworn in as President After Disputed Elections

  • Bongo seeks opposition talks to discuss reforms, adviser says
  • EU criticized last month’s polls for lack of transparency

Gabon’s Ali Bongo was sworn in as president on Tuesday for a second seven-year term, following elections last month that were criticized by the European Union for lacking transparency.

“The elections are over: we must go back to work to develop Gabon and ensure the upliftment of all,” he said in a speech broadcast on state TV and published on his Twitter account. “We need to solve our problems between ourselves, Gabonese, in Gabon, and if necessary, with the help of our African brothers.”

The Constitutional Court upheld Bongo’s victory in Aug. 27 elections in a ruling last week in response to complaints by the opposition that the vote had been rigged. EU election observers on Sept. 25 said they regretted that the court based its ruling on results with “obvious anomalies” and didn’t study the original tally sheets.

Bongo defeated his main challenger, Jean Ping, by less than 10,000 votes, according to the electoral commission. At least six people died in protests that erupted after the announcement of the outcome and continued for several days, paralyzing the country.

Bongo wants to meet as soon as possible with opposition politicians to “discuss the reforms necessary to prevent further disputes,” Noel Messone, a senior adviser to the presidency, said by phone from Paris on Monday. “Knowing that parliamentary elections are down the line, the president is open to discussing with the opposition to explore any solution or any steps needed to preserve national unity,” he said, referring to polls due in December.

The oil-producing central African nation has been governed by Bongo since he won a 2009 vote, succeeding his father, Omar Bongo, who clung to power for 42 years and was the world’s longest-ruling president when he died in office. The country has no term limits.

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