Internet Cut, Curfew Imposed After Voting in Gabon

Internet access was suspended indefinitely Saturday evening, and a curfew was imposed until Sunday morning after polls closed in Gabon.

The moves were taken to “counter the spread of calls for violence … and false information,” Communications Minister Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou said on public television.

Earlier Saturday, voters complained of polls opening much later than announced. In the capital, Libreville, many voting sites hadn’t opened by 2 p.m. Voting was to start in the morning and last for 10 hours, by law, said Paulette Missambo, who withdrew from the presidential race in favor of Albert Ondo Ossa, an independent candidate.

“I’ve finally voted. I’ve been here since 6 a.m. It was at 12 noon that I was able to vote, because the polling station opened at 11 a.m.,” Ballack Obame, a former student leader, told The Associated Press.

“I’ve never seen an election in Gabon that doesn’t start before 10 o’clock. It’s really sad. I’m going home,” Theophile Obiang, a pensioner leaning on his cane, also told the AP.

On the ballot Saturday were candidates for president, lawmakers and local councils that opposition politicians hope will break the Bongo family’s grip on power for more than five decades. About 847,000 people were eligible to vote.

Incumbent President Ali Bongo is seeking a third term. He has been the leader of the country since 2009. Before that, his father led the oil-rich Central African nation.

“Gabon is not the property of the Bongos,” said Albert Ondo Ossa, one of Bongo’s main rivals in the 14-candidate presidential race.

Just last week, Ondo Ossa became the candidate for the main opposition grouping in the presidential race, Alternance 2023.

A recent change to this year’s voting has proved controversial, with critics saying the new measure gives an unfair advantage to the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party.

With the change, a vote for a local deputy will automatically be a vote for the deputy’s presidential candidate. Critics say that change will lead to an “unfair vote” as Ossa is not backed by a single party.

Source: VOA

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