The Gabonese National Assembly and Senate met in Congress on Thursday to revise the country's constitution, reducing the term of office of the President of the Republic from seven to five years, and the election from two to one round. A change denounced by part of the opposition.
The changes synchronize all mandates for five years and revert all elections to single-round balloting with the most recent Constitutional Amendments in 2018, which created a two-round voting procedure.
According to assembly speaker Faustin Boukoubi, 85 per cent of votes cast in a joint session of the national assembly and senate in the capital Libreville endorsed the measure, "far exceeding the qualified majority of two-thirds required."
These changes, particularly the one-round ballot, have been criticized by a segment of the opposition (which is currently very divided) as a means of "facilitating the re-election," potentially with a relative majority, of the country's long-serving leader, Ali Bongo Ondimba.
According to Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze, a compromise was achieved after 10 days of political concertation between the majority and the opposition in February.
The negotiations were boycotted by several top opposition leaders and their parties.
After succeeding his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who governed the oil-rich West African nation for 41 years, in 2009, Bongo, now 64, is widely expected to run for reelection.
In 2016, the president was re-elected by just 5,500 votes over opponent Jean Ping, who claimed the election was manipulated.
Bongo suffered a stroke in 2018 and spent months recovering, prompting the opposition to question his fitness to rule the country.
His political party, the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), has substantial majorities in both chambers of parliament and is pressuring the president to declare his intention to run again.
Elections for the position of president, the legislature, and municipal offices are scheduled at the end of August this year, although no date has been established.
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