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In Gabon, has the dialogue between power and opposition been constructive?

In Gabon, political consultation between the majority and the opposition has just ended. The question of the length of terms of office has been settled, others remain in abeyance.

This was one of the challenges of this great "political consultation", supposed to bring together the representatives of the Gabonese authorities and the opposition: the duration of the mandates. In debates behind closed doors, the two camps discussed this point at length. “The discussions are tough, are difficult because we are working on a subject which is itself difficult, indicated a short time ago. the new Prime Minister, Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze. On the point concerning electoral mandates, it is a delicate subject but on which everyone puts forward arguments and we think we have good hope that we will eventually find an agreement to obtain this harmonization desired by the Head of State ”.

A head of state who could remain in power for several more terms. Because if the duration of the mandates of the president, senators, deputies and local elected officials has indeed been fixed at five years, the number of mandates remains unlimited.

If the talks were tough, they were also opaque to say the least: the opposition present during the political consultation did not want to comment on the discussions and never indicated what their objectives were. “We prefer to wait until the end of the negotiations to tell you what we have achieved,” Séraphin Akure Davin, one of the opposition leaders, had simply indicated.

An opposition that did not represent the entire political spectrum, however. And that is perhaps what makes this consultation so unconstructive. The Head of State had limited participation to thirty representatives of the majority and the opposition. However, more than thirty distinct parties claim to be opposition. This has, de facto, caused the departure of the National Union (UN), Réagir and the Citizen Awakening Party (PRC) from the consultation.

The talks are not over

But according to the Platform Alternance 2023, at the origin of the request for consultation, the representativeness of the opposition was ensured and the parties which withdrew were either too recent or too unrepresentative at the level of political institutions.

With or without them, discussions should lead to laws. But in the end, the length of mandates was the biggest step forward, while other points remained unresolved. Biometrics, the status of the opposition or the electoral redistricting were indeed to be discussed. But no consensus was reached on these three themes. Surprising when you know that the negotiations lasted about ten days.

Surprising also because the goal of this consultation was that the upcoming elections be "credible, transparent and peaceful". However, with the exception of a few points – such as the age for presidential candidates, which has been increased from 18 to 30 – the main questions have not yielded answers.

From now on, a monitoring committee will be in charge of monitoring that the decisions taken during the consultation are transformed into laws. But also to continue the reflections on the questions remained in suspense, among which the reform of the Gabonese Center of the elections. We will have to move quickly, because Gabonese elections are scheduled for the second half of 2023, possibly in August.

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