Recent Elections: On August 31, National Electoral Commission (CENAP) announced the reelection of incumbent President and PDG candidate Ali Bongo Ondimba; the president won 50.7 percent of the vote, and leading opposition candidate Jean Ping received 47.2 percent. Voter turnout in the process, which was marred by irregularities, was 59.5 percent. Ali Bongo Ondimba was first elected in 2009, following the death of his father, president Omar Bongo, who died that year after a 41-year rule. International observers questioned the fairness of the vote, noting the president was credited with 95.5 percent of the vote in his home province on a turnout of 99.9 percent. Postelection violence (including the burning of the National Assembly building), significant lapses in respect for human rights, numerous arrests, and accusations of political tampering with the electoral process marred the election. Irregularities included problems with voter lists and registration, polls that opened late, improperly secured ballot boxes, organized proxy voting for members of the military, inconsistent application of rules regarding acceptable identification, and poorly trained poll workers. Authorities censored news coverage and harassed the press. Numerous candidates contested the election results, which the Constitutional Court nevertheless validated on September 23.
In the 2011 National Assembly elections, the PDG won 114 of 120 seats. Regional and local observers deemed the election generally free and fair despite minor irregularities. Observers estimated voter turnout at 34 percent. Opposition and civil society leaders had called for a boycott of these elections. The average turnout in legislative elections was approximately 40 percent.
In 2011 the minister of interior announced changes to the electoral code and the law governing political parties. Key changes included a reduction in the time permitted for revising the electoral list from 60 to 30 days and a decrease in the campaigning periods for legislative elections from 15 to 10 days. The reforms also give CENAP the authority to make decisions with a quorum of only four of the eight board members. Opposition leaders criticized these changes as limits on political participation, since the opposition selects only three of eight CENAP members; government officials or the PDG select the remaining five. They also stated that governing party politicians paid for votes and transported voters from other electoral districts to vote in their electoral districts.
The government introduced and employed biometric identification in voter registration in 2013. Opposition and civil society activists criticized the implementation process as inadequate to prevent fraud.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDG has dominated the government since its creation by former president Omar Bongo in 1968. PDG membership conferred advantage in obtaining government positions. Opposition members complained of unfair drawing of voter districts, alleging the president’s home province received disproportionately more parliamentary seats than other provinces. They also stated that the PDG had greater access to government resources for campaign purposes than other parties.
In 2011 the government modified the law pertaining to political parties to prohibit leaders of dissolved political parties from forming new ones or serving on the board of an already existing party for five years after the party’s dissolution. This modification occurred one month after the State Council upheld a court decision to dissolve the National Union Party (NUP) after party president and former interior minister Andre Mba Obame proclaimed himself the country’s president in 2011.
In January 2015 the government reinstituted the NUP after significant lobbying by the international community and reversed the changes to the law prohibiting leaders of dissolved political parties from forming new ones. In August 2015 a NUP candidate won a special election to replace a national assembly member from the PDG who had resigned. During the year the NUP was active in an opposition coalition preparing to compete in presidential and legislative elections.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws prevent women or minorities from voting, running for office, or participating in politics. Some observers believed cultural and traditional factors prevented women from participating in political life to the same extent as men, however. Women held only four of 29 cabinet positions, 18 of 120 National Assembly seats, and only 18 of 102 Senate seats.
Members of all major ethnic groups occupied prominent government civilian and security force positions. Indigenous populations, however, rarely participated in the political process.