By Edward McAllister
LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Gabon’s Constitutional Court said it would issue a ruling on Friday on an election that opposition leader Jean Ping said was rigged to give President Ali Bongo victory.
The court’s nine judges held a hearing on Ping’s election complaint on Thursday, a Reuters witness said. They are expected to announce a recount of ballots cast in the Aug. 27 vote or final results.
The election has drawn unwelcome scrutiny on Bongo, whose family has ruled the oil-producing country for almost half a century. France has called for a recount and the European Union questioned the integrity of the results.
Six lawyers for Bongo and two for Ping sat at tables about five meters apart in the glass-domed courtroom. All wore black robes and white cravat-style collars. At least 12 armed security personnel stood guard outside the courthouse.
The top document on a pile stacked on the opposition’s legal table was titled Province Haut-Ogooue, a stronghold region for Bongo who won 95 percent of the vote there on a 99.9 percent turnout, according to electoral commission results.
Ping has said that result was rigged. At least six people died in clashes after the result was announced.
“What we are asking for is a confirmation of the voting tallies. Why not make this comparison? I think that this (court’s) analysis doesn’t conform to reality,” Ping’s lawyer Jean Remi Batsantsa told the court in an animated speech.
Bongo’s lawyer said the court should reject Ping’s complaint, in part because it was wrong to single out one province for a recount.
Bongo became president in 2009 on the death of his father, who ruled for 42 years. Ping has said that he has no faith in the court because of its ties to the president.
(Additional reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Toni Reinhold)