Gabon faced delays and disruptions during its recent general election where President Ali Bongo sought a third term. Voters encountered long waits at polling stations in the capital Libreville and across the country on election day. The government responded by cutting off internet access and imposing a nightly curfew.
President Bongo, who came to power after his father’s death in 2009, is hoping to extend his family’s decades-long rule. However, the opposition united behind a single candidate, Albert Ondo Ossa, in an effort to prevent Bongo from winning another term. Ondo Ossa campaigned on the need for economic change and more job opportunities, which could resonate with Gabon’s high youth unemployment and poverty.
On election day, many polling stations opened late or remained closed for hours. Voters complained of the delays and confusion. The government did not provide an explanation for the problems. Some voters and the opposition alleged that fraud was already underway.
That evening, the government announced an internet shutdown and nightly curfew, citing threats of violence and disinformation. The move was likely to limit citizens’ communication during the election period.
Previous elections in Gabon have been marred by violence as the opposition disputed the results. Changes to the voting system this year also raised concerns about potential post-election tensions and unrest. Voters now select both a presidential candidate and lawmaker from the same party on a single ballot.
While the pre-election period was relatively smooth, many Gabonese feared violence after the results as in 2016 when protests erupted following Bongo’s narrow victory. The opposition has disputed both of his election wins as fraudulent.