Africa: Despite Massive Discontent, Gabonese Want Democracy and Reject Military Rule, Survey Shows (Afrobarometer)

Soldiers stormed the national radio headquarters in Libreville, Gabon’s capital.
10 January 2019

Libreville, Gabon — Despite massive public dissatisfaction with the status quo, Gabonese citizens strongly support democracy and reject military and one-man rule, Afrobarometer's most recent national survey shows.

Large majorities of the population disapprove of the country's overall direction, the quality of their most recent election, President Ali Bongo's performance, and the way their democracy is working - an overwhelming level of public discontent that may have emboldened military officers who this week attempted a coup.

Yet similarly large majorities of the citizenry want democracy and elections and oppose authoritarian alternatives, the survey shows.

Gabon, an oil-rich country marked by widespread poverty, has been ruled since 1967 by Omar Bongo and, after his death in 2009, his son Ali Bongo, who claimed a second presidential term after a disputed 2016 election followed by violent protests.

Key findings:

  • Large majorities of Gabonese citizens prefer democracy to any other kind of government (72%) and reject military rule (71%), one-party rule (87%), and one-man rule (90%). But only one in 10 citizens (11%) are satisfied with the way their democracy is working.
  • Most Gabonese say their country is going in the wrong direction (87%). Seven in 10 see economic conditions as worsening (70%) and disapprove of President Bongo's job performance (72%).
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of Gabonese say elections are the best way to choose the country's leaders. But fewer than one in five trust the national electoral commission (16%) and consider the 2016 election to have been generally free and fair (18%).

Survey background

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries. Six rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 37 countries between 1999 and 2015, and Round 7 surveys were completed in 2018. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent's choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in Gabon, led by the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche en Géosciences Politiques et Prospective (CERGEP), interviewed 1,200 adult citizens in November 2017. A sample of this size produces country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. One previous survey was conducted in Gabon in 2015. 2014.

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