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”.
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo said that the opposition leader had created “a climate” through his “violent campaign of lies and denigration” which was to blame for the unrest that erupted after his re-election. “I have not employed or triggered the violence,” Bongo said in an interview with AFP. “I wanted democratic elections, I wanted transparent elections, I wanted a ballot that was just, I am not reliant on fraud,” he added.
Ping is asking for a recount in Haut-Ogooue province, a Bongo family stronghold where the incumbent won more than 95% of the vote on an official turnout of more than 99%. An EU election observer mission also said that there was a “clear anomaly in the final result in Haut-Ogooue”.
Ping admitted that he was “apprehensive” about getting a fair hearing at the court, “which the Gabonese call the Tower of Pisa because it always leans to the side of the ruling power”.