Since its independence from France on August 17, 1960, the Republic has been ruled by three presidents. In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new democraticconstitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed many governmental institutions. The small population density together with abundant natural resources and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in the region, with the highest HDI in Sub-Saharan Africa.
23 candidates were approved to contest the election, although six of them withdrew immediately before the election, reducing the field to 17 candidates. Despite the large number of candidates, three of them were considered the key contenders for the Presidency: Ali-Ben Bongo, the son of Omar Bongo, who was the candidate of the long-ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG); Pierre Mamboundou, a radical opposition leader who was backed by a coalition of parties; and André Mba Obame, a former PDG member who ran as an independent and won the backing of several other candidates.
According to official results announced on 3 September 2009, Bongo won the election with a plurality of 41.7% of the vote, while Mba Obame and Mamboundou both trailed with about 25% each. Opposition supporters reacted violently to the results. (Read more...)
Omar Bongo was promoted to key positions as a young official under Gabon's first President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, before being elevated to Vice-President from 1966 to 1967, eventually succeeding M'ba to become Gabon's second President upon the latter's death in 1967.
Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when he was forced to introduce multi-party politics in Gabon in the face of great public pressure. He then survived intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s, succeeding in consolidating power again mainly by bringing most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s over to his side. He was re-elected in extremely controversial 1993 presidential election, and again in the subsequent elections of 1998 and 2005, with his respective majorities increasing and the opposition becoming more subdued on each election. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-serving non-monarch ruler.