Experts Say Last-Minute Change to Gabon Voting Rules Risky

Gabon goes to the polls tomorrow, Saturday August 26, 2023.

However, a voting procedure rule change which was announced by the Gabonese Center for Elections in July 2023, stipulates that voters must select their presidential and parliamentary candidate from the same political party, if the ultimate winner is anyone other than a candidate of the ruling party.

Critics immediately denounced the change, saying it is meant to favour the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party, led by long-time president Ali Bongo Ondimba who has been in power since 2009.

According to the rule, any vote for a local deputy would automatically be a vote for that deputy's presidential candidate. But critics say some opposition parties have not fielded candidates for the National Assembly elections.

Annaick Moubouyi-Boyer, a political analyst in the Gabonese capital Libreville, told VOA that the change, coupled with a constitutional change reducing two rounds of presidential voting to one, raises concerns as the stakes rise ahead of Saturday's polls.

Only the outgoing president, Ali Bongo, seems to be active in Gabon at the start of the electoral campaign. In the capital, Libreville, residents say they feel no excitement ahead of the August 26 elections.

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