Gabon President Ali Bongo said on Monday he would run for a second term in elections later this year, seeking to extend his party’s near 50-year rule over the oil-producing central African state.
Bongo won a disputed election in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo and is now nearing the end of his first seven-year mandate. There are no presidential term limits in Gabon.
“Bongo Fils”, or Bongo’s son as he known locally, has sought to reform and diversify the former French colony’s oil-reliant economy and increase public investment, although some of his ambitious programmes have been hit by falling commodity prices.
“…I announce my candidacy for this year’s presidential election,” he said during a visit to the oil hub of Port Gentil which is a traditional stronghold for the opposition.
In the same speech, he stressed the need to fight against a “system of privileges” in a country where much of the oil wealth has historically flowed to a small elite.
Both Bongo and his main rival former African Union chairman Jean Ping belong to this group and they may therefore struggle to persuade voters that wealth distribution is a priority.
Gabon’s one-round electoral system is seen as favouring the incumbent and most analysts expect Bongo to remain as president, though they also point to the risk of unrest due to high tension between supporters of Bongo’s Gabonese Democratic Party and opponents.
Veteran leaders elsewhere in Africa have also sought to extend their rules, sometimes changing their country’s laws in order to do so such as in Congo Republic, Rwanda and Burundi, where serious fighting has erupted.
Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was endorsed by his party to seek a fifth mandate in elections later this year.
The election is widely expected to take place in August although the date has yet to be confirmed by authorities.