Opposition leader Jean Ping on Saturday lashed a decision by Gabon’s top court to validate President Ali Bongo’s re-election, as police and troops patrolled the deserted streets of Libreville to prevent a new flareup of violence. Ping accused the Constitutional Court of “bias (and) miscarriage of justice” following a ruling early Saturday that upheld Bongo’s disputed victory in the August 27 presidential election. “I will not retreat. As president clearly elected by the Gabonese people, I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty,” Ping said. Concern has been growing that a ruling in favour of Bongo, in power since the death of his long-ruling father Omar Bongo in 2009, could spark more of the deadly unrest Gabon saw after the president’s re-election was announced.
Voters across Russia handed a sweeping victory to President Vladimir Putin’s allies in a parliamentary election on Sunday. But in two regions Reuters reporters saw inflated turnout figures, ballot-stuffing and people voting more than once at three polling stations. In the Bashkortostan region’s capital Ufa, in the foothills of the Urals, Reuters reporters counted 799 voters casting ballots at polling station number 284. When officials tallied the vote later in the day, they said the turnout was 1,689. At polling station 591 in the Mordovia regional capital of Saransk, about 650 km south-east of Moscow, reporters counted 1,172 voters but officials recorded a turnout of 1,756. A Reuters reporter obtained a temporary registration to vote at that station, and cast a ballot for a party other than the pro-Putin United Russia. During the count, officials recorded that not a single vote had been cast for that party.
When liberal-rights activist Ella Pamfilova was named the head of Russia’s election commission in March, she promised to clean house and oversee transparent, democratic elections. “We will change a lot, and radically, in the way the Central Election Commission operates. A lot and radically—this is something I can promise you,” she said at the time. However, a statistical analysis of the official preliminary results of the country’s September 18 State Duma elections points to a familiar story: massive fraud in favor of the ruling United Russia party comparable to what independent analysts found in 2007 and 2011. “The results of the current Duma elections were falsified on the same level as the Duma and presidential elections of 2011, 2008, and 2007, the most falsified elections in post-Soviet history, as far as we can tell,” physicist and data analyst Sergei Shpilkin said to The Atlantic. “By my estimate, the scope of the falsification in favor of United Russia in these elections amounted to approximately 12 million votes.” According to the CEC’s preliminary results, official turnout for the election was 48 percent, and United Russia polled 54.2 percent of the party-list vote—about 28,272,000 votes. That total gave United Russia 140 of the 225 party-list seats available in the Duma. In addition, United Russia candidates won 203 of the 225 contests in single-mandate districts, giving the party an expected total of 343 deputies in the 450-seat house.
In Russia’s parliamentary election on Sunday, Vladimir Putin’s party won three-quarters of the seats outright in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, and the rest indirectly, through parties loyal to him. It apparently did so without many voting irregularities, and despite a sluggish economy, sanctions imposed by the West and unrest in some quarters over the government’s crackdown on civil liberties. What gives? What gives is the sorry degree to which Mr. Putin and his Kremlin cronies have consolidated full control over Russian politics. Twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia appears to have returned full circle to a pseudo-parliament whose only function is to give a semblance of legitimacy to an authoritarian ruler. The post-Soviet Russian Constitution already granted more powers to the president and cabinet than to the legislature, but at least the Duma was a platform for the opposition to question and criticize Kremlin policies. Now even this function is effectively gone.
Russia’s parliamentary election was marred by over 3,600 violations the country’s top independent monitor Golos reported after a decisive win for the government. Ruling party United Russia won a record number of seats, in an expected victory by unexpected margins. Its new electoral chief hailed the vote as the cleanest in Russia’s history and, despite monitors noting violations were fewer than in previous occasions, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stressed the vote was still hampered by challenges to “fundamental freedoms and political rights” and “numerous procedural irregularities” during counting. Golos head Grigory Melkonyants told news site Rus2Web that the group had “spotted the full spectrum of violations” on polling day. Golos reported several incidents involving suspected mass transportation of voters to constituencies in coaches and announced that the group had received reports of “ballot stuffing” from 16 regions of Russia.
The ruling United Russia party, which is backed by Vladimir Putin, is on track to win 343 of 450 seats in Russia’s lower house of parliament. With 90 per cent of the vote counted, the pro-Kremlin party had 54% of the vote for the 225 seats chosen nationwide by party list, the Central Elections Commission said. The three parties who were the next most popular – the Communist Party, The Liberal Democrats and the Just Russia Party – all support Mr Putin. However, there have been multiple reports of voting fraud and videos have surfaced of apparent ballot stuffing. One video shows an official appearing to take a pile of ballots and shoving them into the voting box while another person seems to stand guard.
Most observers, myself included, expected Gabon’s incumbent president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, to win his country’s election late last month. Few, however—again including me—anticipated the degree of violence and apparent fraud that would accompany the process. Bongo is now reconsolidating power in the aftermath of an intensely contested election. If his victory stands, it will demonstrate that Gabon’s opposition has few tools with which to challenge the results, and that the international community has little will to sanction Bongo and his inner circle. When elections were held on Aug. 27, Bongo barely won. Gabon’s electoral framework stipulated that the winner needed a plurality, rather than a majority, of the vote. With the opposition surprisingly unified around one candidate, Jean Ping, a former African Union Commission chairman and Gabonese Cabinet minister, the election became a two-man race. The official results gave Bongo 49.8 percent and Ping 48.23 percent, with eight other candidates dividing the remaining roughly 2 percent of the vote.
Opposition candidates have won seats in parliamentary elections in Belarus for the first time since 2000, though critics of the ruling regime said they had been “appointed” to appease the west, and independent observers reported widespread vote-rigging. Anna Konopatskaya, of the United Civic party, won a district in Minsk, and Yelena Anisim, of the Belarusian Language Society, also won a seat. Anisim’s opponent, Yelena Zhuravlyova, a regime loyalist, unexpectedly withdrew from the race last month. Leading critics of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 22 years, were unimpressed.
Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping has appealed to the country’s highest court contesting last month’s presidential election — results that have led to deadly violence with opposition supporters protesting in the central African nation. Ping lodged a complaint Thursday with the Constitutional Court, his campaign team told CNN, demanding a vote recount. “I am committed to defend the vote of Gabon,” Ping said in a statement after meeting Friday with supporters in Libreville, the capital. “If the Gabonese people do not recognize themselves in the decision handed down by the Constitutional Court, I will stand by their side, by the side of the people to demand they respect Article 9 of the constitution that states unambiguously that the election of the president of the republic is gained by the candidate who obtains the most votes,” he said.
Gabon’s Jean Ping took his bid to have a wafer-thin presidential election loss overturned to the country’s top court Friday, as President Ali Bongo blamed the opposition leader for creating a climate of violence. Days of riots followed the August 31 announcement handing Bongo a narrow victory with a margin of some 6,000 votes, and Ping warned of more trouble to come if the court, which has 15 days to decide, rejects his recount appeal. “I greatly fear that another false step by the Constitutional Court will be the cause of deep and long-lasting instability in Gabon,” Ping told hundreds of supporters in Libreville. “If the Constitutional Court ignores the reality of the Gabonese vote, the people, who would have nothing left to lose… will take the future into their own hands,” said Ping, who continues to refer to himself as “president-elect”.