LIBREVILLE – Gabon’s opposition leader Jean Ping took his bid to have a razor-thin presidential election loss overturned to the country’s top court Friday, as President Ali Bongo blamed his rival for creating a climate of violence.
Days of riots followed the August 31 announcement handing Bongo a narrow victory with a margin of some 6,000 votes, and Ping warned of more trouble to come if the court, which has 15 days to decide, rejects his recount appeal.
Now in the wake of the Gabon election unrest, Afrobarometer, a research project that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa, has released its latest survey which finds that only half of Africans trust their national electoral commissions, and many fear violence and unfair practices during campaigns.
Citizens’ views on election quality are generally consistent with assessments by international experts. Two thirds of Africans rate their most recent election as “completely free and fair” (41%) or “free and fair, but with minor problems” (24 %).
But substantial proportions of the population are sceptical about the quality of their elections. More than four in 10 Africans say that voters are at least “sometimes” threatened with violence at the polls (44%); that opposition parties and candidates are at least “sometimes” prevented from running (43%); that the news media “never” or only “sometimes” provides fair coverage of all candidates (43%); and that voters are “often” or “always” bribed (43%).
With at least 25 countries conducting national elections in 2016-2017, the perceptions paint a troubling picture of the management and quality of elections.