/ 1 November 2011

Court sends Gabon to the polls as planned

Gabon’s constitutional court has ruled that parliamentary elections will take place on December 17 as planned, despite opposition demands for a delay in the poll to introduce biometric voters cards, officials said on Monday.

The ruling upheld a decision by the country’s elections commission to hold the ballot, Jean Laurent Tsinga, assistant chief clerk at the court, told RTG1 public television.

Gabon’s opposition has been campaigning for months to delay the elections in order to introduce the biometric system, which has been implemented in many countries for digital chips in passports and electoral cards, using individual biological data such as fingerprints or eye retina scans to combat fraud.

After talks between President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the opposition and representatives of civil society in April, the government itself asked the constitutional court to delay the elections until 2012 on grounds of “force majeure”.

The constitutional court refused any delay.

In response, the two main opposition parties, the now dissolved National Union and the Union of the Gabonese People, in July suspended participation in the electoral commission, considering that the commission could not go through with the electoral process without them.

The oil-rich equatorial African country’s opposition and a civil society movement known as “That’s Enough of This” are still calling for a delay in the election, with the slogan: “No biometrics, no transparency, no vote.” — Sapa-AFP