French PM Calls for Gabon Vote Recount

Manuel Valls
Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Paris, September 5, 2016. Valls is the favorite to win the country's left-wing presidential primary. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called for a vote recount in Gabon after the contentious re-election of President Ali Bongo Ondimba sparked widespread protests in the Central African country.

Bongo won the presidential election held on August 27 by a margin of less than 2 percent ahead of opposition leader Jean Ping, who had announced his own victory before the official results were revealed. Ping has protested the result and called for a general strike in Gabon, where more than 1,000 people have been arrested and several killed after opposition supporters took to the streets to demonstrate against the result.

In an interview with French radio station RTL on Tuesday, Valls suggested that a recount might reduce tensions in the country. "There are arguments and some doubts [about the result]. European observers in the country have already made criticisms on the basis of objectives. It would be wise to do a recount," said Valls.

Gabon's government accused former colonial power France of interfering in the election after the governing Socialist Party in France posted a message on August 28—three days before the results were confirmed—suggesting that "early estimates" indicated a victory for Ping.

France, the European Union and the United States have already called for a full breakdown of results from the election to be published after the EU's observer mission in Gabon reported irregularities in the ballot.

In a continuing fallout from the result, Gabonese Justice Minister Seraphim Moundounga has resigned in protest. Moundounga, a former ally of President Bongo, had reportedly warned the incumbent that he could annul the election results if they did not "tally with reality," the BBC reported.

Bongo's victory means a continuation of the dynasty that has led Gabon for almost 50 years. The president's father, Omar Bongo, ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009, after which he was replaced by his son.

Opposition leader Ping won in six out of Gabon's nine provinces, according to the official result, but lost out in Bongo's home province of Haut-Ogooué, where turnout was recorded at 99.93 percent and 95 percent of the votes went to the incumbent. According to the interior ministry, turnout in the other provinces varied between 45 percent and 71 percent.