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Gabon

Independent from French colonial rule in 1960 first President Léon M’ba was elected with significant French financial support. M’ba’s rule became progressively more repressive, the opposition attempted to remove him in a 1964 coup whilst in the process of instituting a one-party regime. However, characteristic of France’s assertive and interventionist foreign policy in Francophone Africa during this period, M’ba was returned to power by French paratroopers.

M’ba died in 1967 and was replaced by Vice-President Omar Bongo. Bongo declared Gabon a One-part state in 1968 and invited all Gabonese to participate in the newly created Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG). In 1975 elections were held and Bongo elected President (he was re-elected in 1979 and 1986.)

In the early 1990s economic stagnation and desire for political liberalisation provoked violent anti-government demonstrations. A 1990 conference organised to diffuse the protests resulted in sweeping political reforms, notably the creation of a national senate and freedom of assembly and press.

Bongo resigned as PDG chairman and created a transitional government headed by a new Prime Minister, Casimir Oye-Mba. The new government - The Gabonese Social Democratic Grouping (RSDG), included representatives from several opposition parties in its cabinet. The RSDG drafted a provisional constitution in May 1990 that provided a basic bill of rights and an independent judiciary but retained strong executive powers for the president.Despite anti-government demonstrations the first multiparty National Assembly elections in almost 30 years took place in September–October 1990, with the PDG winning a large majority.

Following President Omar Bongo's re-election in December 1993 with 51% of the vote, opposition candidates refused to validate the election results. Serious civil disturbances led to an agreement between the government and opposition factions to work toward a political settlement. These talks led to the Paris Accords in November 1994, under which several opposition figures were included in a government of national unity.

This arrangement soon broke down, however, and the 1996 and 1997 legislative and municipal elections provided the background for renewed partisan politics. The PDG won a landslide victory in the legislative election.

Facing a divided opposition, President Omar Bongo coasted to easy re-election in December 1998, with large majorities of the vote. Peaceful though flawed legislative elections held in 2001-2002 were boycotted by a number of smaller opposition parties and produced a National Assembly almost completely dominated by the PDG.

In November 2005, President Omar Bongo was elected for his sixth term - opponents claim that the balloting process was marred by irregularities. There were some instances of violence following the announcement of Omar Bongo's win, but Gabon generally remained peaceful.

National Assembly elections were held again in December 2006. Several seats contested because of voting irregularities were overturned by the Constitutional Court, but the subsequent run-off elections in early 2007 again yielded a PDG-controlled National Assembly.

On June 2009 President Bongo died ushering in a new era in Gabonese politics. The first contested elections in Gabon’s history that did not include Omar Bongo as a candidate were held on August 30, 2009 with 18 candidates for president. Bongo’s son, ruling party leader Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected President. Many opposition candidates claimed fraud.

Gabon's economy is dominated by oil. Oil revenues comprise roughly 46% of the government’s budget, 43% of GDP, and 81% of exports. Oil production is now declining rapidly from its high point of 370,000 barrels per day in 1997. Some estimates suggest that Gabonese oil will be expended by 2025. The country celebrated 50 years of independence in 2010.
 

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