Gabon is currently voting in its first municipal and legislative polls since a controversial presidential election two years ago that was tainted with deadly violence and allegations of fraud.
Voting began on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. local time in the capital.
The government has engaged in a serious campaign to encourage large voter turnout to legitimize the election proceedings and put the results beyond reproach.
A total of 143 new MP’s and a few other local officials will be voted in during this exercise.
Opinion polls show a weak and divided opposition would be unlikely to win a challenge against President Al Bongo, the incumbent. His key rival, Jean Ping, is boycotting the election, but most other opposition groups entered the contest in the oil-rich west African country.
‘I want change in my country,’ said Stanislas Bidoubi, a 53-year-old shopkeeper. Like him, many seem to be interested in a different solution from the one they currently have.
The voter turnout in the capital showed promise of an active voting day, going by that observation alone.
‘I’ve never missed an election,’ said Rainatou Wagne.
‘Even if there’s cheating in every African election, as a Gabonese citizen I prefer to vote,’ she added.
The Gabon 2016 election was strongly disputed by the opposition who claimed the results were altered to favor Ali Bongo, son of Omar Bongo who ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009.
The dispute led to dozens of death even though the government claimed only four people died.
Similar complaints have been made early Saturday of attempts to buy votes, and their representatives had been denied access.
‘I am not sure that this election will ease tensions because, since 2016, the country has been torn by a crisis that has divided families and changed the political scenario,’ Wilson Andre Ndombet, a political analyst said