The European Union observation mission in Gabon said Tuesday it noted an anomaly in voting results from the president’s stronghold province that pushed him over the edge to win re-election by a slim margin.
Election commission results showed President Ali Bongo Ondimba beat opposition contender Jean Ping in Gabon’s Aug. 27 presidential vote by 1.57 percentage points. Clashes quickly broke out in this oil-rich Central African country after the results were announced last week, with opposition supporters claiming fraud and burning buildings and looting stores.
Ping on Friday declared himself the rightful winner of the vote.
The EU observer commission said in addition to not having full access to all districts within Bongo’s stronghold Haut-Ogooue province, voter turnout there appeared inflated.
According to the electoral commission, there was a 99.93 percent turnout in that province, with 95 percent voting in favor of Bongo.
The EU noted that such a number means only 47 people in the area wouldn’t have voted.
“An analysis of the number of non-voters and blank and spoiled ballots reveals an obvious anomaly in the final results,” it said, adding that confidence in the results is compromised.
Other provinces showed on average a 48 percent voter turnout, it said.
“In order to restore the confidence of Gabon, I reiterate my call on the Gabonese authorities to publish the poll results by polling station,” said EU observation chief Mariya Gabriel.
The opposition party must legally file any complaints by Thursday, eight days after the announcement of the results.
There is worry that could also be a flashpoint for the oil-rich country.
Post-election violence in Gabon has killed between 50 and 100 people, the opposition presidential candidate said Tuesday, a toll much higher than the government’s count of three in days of violent demonstrations against the president’s re-election.
It is difficult to independently verify reports of deaths, as the internet has been shut off since Aug. 31.
International pressure is growing on Gabon’s government to show transparency in the vote results, with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday telling RTL radio that “common sense would command a recount of the ballots. ”
U.S. and France have also called on the government to publish results by individual polling stations.
Gabon’s justice minister resigned Monday over the government’s refusal to recount the ballots, as Ping has demanded. The African Union has offered to help find a solution to the crisis.
On Tuesday, Ping told France 24 the death toll was far higher than the three that Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya mentioned Monday. Boubeya also said 105 were injured in the postelection violence, with security forces detaining 800 people in the capital, Libreville, and 400 in other areas.
The opposition’s estimate of 50 to 100 killed in the protests is based on reports from residents around the country, Ping’s spokesman, Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, told The Associated Press.
“It is clear that the government is hiding the true toll,” Ntoutoume Ayi said.
Bongo’s re-election would extend a family dynasty in power since the 1960s. He was elected in 2009 after the death of his father, longtime ruler Omar Bongo, and protests followed.