DAKAR, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Ali Ben Bongo, son of Gabon’s long-time ruler Omar Bongo, won an election to succeed his late father with 41.73 percent of the vote, according to results announced by the interior minister on Thursday.
The announcement came after days of mounting tension after Sunday’s election, with two other rival candidates also staking their claim to victory and accusing Ben Bongo of electoral fraud to ensure a dynastic succession from his father.
Here are some possible outcomes as Gabon digests the result:
Both ex-interior minister Andre Mba Obame and opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou, placed second and third by the official results, had already declared victory and so are unlikely to accept the outcome without a protest.
They could seek to prove the result is false by publishing returns from polling stations around the country and so try to mount a legal challenge to Ben Bongo’s victory. So far, neither has made a clear appeal for their supporters to come out in protest, though in the run-up to the poll, observers and Libreville residents predicted unrest whatever the result.
In the hours after the interior minister announced Bongo’s victory, opposition supporters clashed with police in capital Libreville and oil industry hub Port Gentil.
As former defence minister, Bongo is seen as wielding considerable influence over the army, which mitigates against the chances of disgruntled army officers joining forces with politicians to attempt a coup d’etat.
A key feature of Omar Bongo’s tenure in power was playing opponents off against each other, which he did using his personal popularity and political acumen. Some observers see the number of opposition candidates who lined up against Ali Bongo, in particular those who quit the PDG to stand against him, as evidence that Bongo induced some candidates to run in order to split the vote against him.
Economically, Bongo’s biggest challenge is diversifying Gabon’s oil-dependent economy. Oil exports have been the mainstay of the country’s finances for decades, but unless new discoveries are made soon, shipments and revenues will dwindle over the next 10 years.
The country has abundant supplies of timber and manganese, a mineral used in steel-making, but both are equally as vulnerable to commodity prices cycles as petrochemicals, and prices of all Gabon’s major exports dropped sharply when demand fell as a result of the global economic slowdown.
Politically, one of his major tasks will be negating domestic opposition with reduced backing from France. Bongo’s father had a strong relationship with successive French presidents, but Nicolas Sarkozy was jeered when he attended Omar Bongo’s funeral in June, and has said France would not involve itself with internal Gabonese affairs.
Writing by Mark John and Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Giles Elgood