Gabon ri­vals seek united front against poll leader

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

LIBREVILLE: Five candidates in Gabon’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion have agreed to unite be­hind An­dre Mba Obame, a ri­val to poll front-run­ner Ali Ben Bongo, son of the late pres­i­dent.

But the bid to pro­mote a unity can­di­date ap­peared to have back­fired yes­ter­day as four con­tenders de­nied hav­ing pulled out of the race to rally be­hind a ri­val.

A fur­ther seven de­nied me­dia re­ports that they had also pulled out, un­der­scor­ing di­vi­sions among a pack of more than 20 candidates try­ing to pre­vent the younger Bongo from suc­ceed­ing Omar Bongo, who ruled the cen­tral African oil pro­ducer for more than 40 years be­fore he died in June.

“Con­sul­ta­tions re­sulted in a se­cret vote and the des­ig­na­tion of An­dre Mba Obame (as can- di­date),” said a state­ment read by one with­draw­ing elec­tion hope­ful, Anna Clau­dine As­sayi Ayo, af­ter overnight talks with other candidates yes­ter­day.

Obame was Gabon’s in­te­rior min­is­ter un­til June and an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of Bongo’s rul­ing Gabonese Demo­cratic Party (PDG) for 23 years be­fore choos­ing to run sep­a­rately.

A Bongo victory is widely seen as en­sur­ing con­ti­nu­ity of in­vestor-friendly poli­cies that have al­lowed decades of for­eign-led oil pro­duc­tion. Crit­ics com­plain Omar Bongo’s rule was based on cor­rup­tion and failed to de­velop the coun­try.

Two re­spected ri­val candidates, Casimir Oye Mba and Bruno Ben Moubamba, de­nied they had pulled out.

“I do not recog­nise any such doc­u­ment,” Moubamba said. – Reuters

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