Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba votes during the presidential election in Libreville, Gabon, August 27, 2016. REUTERS/Gerauds Wilfried Obangome(reuters_tickers)
By Richard Lough
PARIS (Reuters) - Gabon's re-elected President Ali Bongo shrugged off international calls for a recount of last week's disputed vote, saying it was a matter for the constitutional court to decide.
Opposition leader Jean Ping says the election was a sham, and the European Union has questioned the validity of the results. France, the former colonial ruler once close to Bongo's father and predecessor, supports the idea of a recount.
The poll and its violent aftermath has brought unwanted international attention to the central African oil producer, which counts Total and Royal Dutch Shell PLC among foreign investors, bringing petrodollars that have flowed mostly to the elite.
Asked in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on Wednesday whether he would permit a recount, Bongo told France's RTL radio: "What people should be asking me to do is apply the law. I cannot violate the law. As far as a recount is concerned ... that's done at the level of the Constitutional Court."
Bongo said that under Gabon's electoral law, his opponents had until Thursday to lodge their complaints with the court. He said he was preparing his own objections.
Ping called on Tuesday for international help, and told Reuters: "Everybody knows the result and everybody knows that Bongo is doing everything not to accept it."
France has intervened in its former African colonies in the past but has ruled out intervention in Gabon, which has been run by the Bongo family for half a century.
France has a military base in Gabon but relations have soured recently. Gabon recalled its ambassador earlier this year after the French government appeared to question the legitimacy of Bongo's 2009 election win. In April, anti-corruption investigators seized several Bongo family properties in France.
"PRESIDENT FOR ALL"
Ping, a former diplomat, has said he has no faith in the constitutional court because of its alleged ties to the Bongo family and said in his interview with Reuters late on Tuesday that a recount under international supervision should be conducted first.
He has alleged the number of votes cast for Bongo in southeastern Haut-Ogooue province was inflated. Official figures show the president won 95.46 percent of the vote in the province, a Bongo stronghold, on a 99.9 percent turnout.
Bongo has countered that it was Ping who cheated.
"Jean Ping has committed fraud," Bongo said in a separate interview with Europe 1 radio on Wednesday. "I didn't organise anything, I didn't put in place a network of cyber criminals in order to rig the vote."
Asked whether he would accept the court's ruling if it did examine the results, he said: "I am a democrat. I am in favour the Constitutional Court taking up the case and may it confirm my election. That's what I am expecting."
He said any suggestion of forming a unity government with opponents was premature.
"I will be the president for all Gabonese, I will work with all compatriots who want to join me in working for the development of the country. But it is difficult to work with those who asked the Gabonese people to go into the streets and loot."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday suggested a recount would be sensible, and urged the Gabonese authorities to help locate about 15 French nationals who are missing. Bongo said his government had been handed a list of six names.
"They are among those who rioted and looted and were therefore arrested," Bongo said, adding that dual nationals would be treated like any citizen of Gabon.
(Additional reporting by Matt Biggs in Accra and Simon Carraud; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Sonya Hepinstall)