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Results Give Gabon’s Ruler 96 Percent of Vote; Opposition Calls Protest

December 8, 1993

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) _ Demonstrators took to the streets for a second day Tuesday to protest what they said were preposterous results from Gabon’s first multicandidate presidential election.

State-run radio broadcast partial results that showed President Omar Bongo, the autocratic ruler here for 26 years, getting more than 96 percent of the vote. It was not clear what percentage of the electorate the results represented.

In one village in his home province, the radio said Bongo got 3,448 votes, even though the village had only 851 inhabitants according to a national census in September.

The opposition Coalition for the Force of Change called for mass protests on Wednesday, warning there was ″no saying what could happen″ if the government continued to release such disputed results.

Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the capital, Libreville. Disturbances continued into the night.

France, Gabon’s former ruler, said it was watching protests of a ″xenophobic nature.″ France has oil interests here and sent troops to keep Bongo in power during a 1980s coup attempt.

Bongo had ignored protests by thousands of Gabonese over the last two weeks demanding he delay Sunday’s vote to fix irregularities in registering voters.

His government admitted mistakes were made, but claimed they were made right over the past week.

International observers have said irregularities and confusion in Sunday’s voting promoted fraud.

On Monday, opposition Radio Liberte predicted an overwhelming victory for Bongo’s chief rival, Roman Catholic priest Paul Mba Abessole.

If no candidate won more than 50 percent of votes, a runoff between the two leading contenders would be held Dec. 19.

In 1990, violent protests in this west African nation of 1.1 million forced Bongo to hold the first multiparty legislative elections in 22 years. All the main opposition parties boycotted the vote because of similar fraud charges, allowing Bongo’s Democratic Party to win a narrow majority.