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The Gabon Constitution and Law provide for the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens to partially exercise their right in practice through period and generally fair elections. [1]. The people of Gabon, Sub-Saharan Africa sixth largest oil producer head to the polls on 17 December 2011 to vote in Legislative Elections.[2] .

The elections are however drawing a lot of criticisms from opposition groups, many of who have withdrawn from the elections and urged their supporters to boycott and disrupt the legislative elections. One point of contention is in regards to the use of biometric voting cards, the introduction of which has been denied by the Gabon Constitutional Court.[3] Opposition groups believe that the introduction of biometric voting cards would prevent electoral fraud.

As many as 475 candidates are vying for the seats, including ninety (90) from President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s Parti Democratique Gabonaise(PDG) and 160 candidates from smaller groups that support the leader, according to the country’s constitutional court.[4] Of the original 13 parties that would have opposed the PDG in the legislative elections on 17 December 2011, only three smaller parties have committed to remain in the race-the rest have opted to boycott the poll.[5]

Elections and Political Participation

While Gabon has been politically stable since independence, the new political era marked by the election of Ali Bongo is characterized by a certain level of political and social uncertainty and unrest.[6] President Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected in August 2009 with 41 percent of the vote; the president succeeded his father, former president Omar Bongo, who died in June 2009 after a 41-year rule. The two leading opposition candidates each received approximately 25 percent of the vote. International observers characterized the election as largely free and fair; however, the election was marred by post-election violence, significant restrictions on human rights, and accusations of political tampering with the electoral process. Authorities censored news coverage and harassed the press. Irregularities included problems with voter lists and registration, polls that opened late, improperly secured ballot boxes, and armed security personnel in or near voting sites. Numerous opposition candidates contested the election results, but the Constitutional Court in October 2009 validated President Bongo Ondimba's victory.[7]

It is important to stress that the government is dominated by a strong presidency. When the legislature is not in session, the president can veto legislation, dissolve the national legislature, call new elections, and issue decrees that have the force of law. The legislature generally approves legislation presented by the president, who appoints ministers of government and heads of parastatal companies.[8] Thus making it difficult by the opposition to actually have a say in the running of the country.

Women and Their Status in Gabon

The Constitution in Gabon recognizes men and women as equals before the law. However, discriminatory legal provisions within both the civil and penal codes continue to constrain the status of women, particularly within the context of marriage and family relations. Social attitudes and cultural practices also represent genuine obstacles to the advancement of women.[9]

The law provides that women have rights to equal access in education, business, investment, employment, credit, and pay for similar work; however, women continued to face considerable societal and legal discrimination, especially in rural areas. Women own businesses and property, participate in politics, and work throughout the government and in the private sector. However, the law requires that a woman obtain her husband's permission to travel abroad, although this is rarely enforced.[10]

Women in Gabon do hold governmental positions from the ministerial level on down and in all branches. In a 30-member cabinet, there were six women. The president of the Senate and the head of the Constitutional Court also are women.[11] Gender disparity is still a big issue in Gabon and considering that women cannot hold a higher office than at ministerial level is a shame! There is need for more women political participation at all levels of government and decision making bodies. MEWC advocates for women’s participation in elections both as voters and candidates. Hence the need for strong and diverse institutions that provides equal protection to all people, regardless of gender, fair distribution of resources and access to political power in Gabon.

Election Outcome

Please be sure to check this space in the coming few days for an update of the election results with regards to women's political participtaion in Gabon. 


     

Women Political Representation Statistics

 Political representation

As per 2005 ADB Gabon Country Governance Profile

17 December 2011- To be determined

Female members of Parliament-Bicameral

25/211

Female members of Senate

12/102

Number of women in National Assembly

13 /120

Female Ministers

5/45





http://www.consultancyafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=909:pre-election-reflection-gabons-2011-legislative-elections-&catid=42:election-reflection&Itemid=270

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