Gabon's president Ali Bongo Ondimba
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon Reuters/Darren Ornitz

The Government has stepped-up security in Gabon's capital Libreville as tensions run high ahead of what could be the first time a court overturns a presidential election result in Africa.

Days of deadly rioting followed the controversial re-election of President Ali Bongo, 57, on 31 August. Bongo, whose family has been in power for nearly 50 years, was declared president until 2025.

Allegations of vote rigging in Gabon

The official results said that Bongo won 49.8% of the vote while Ping won 48.2%. This would represent a margin of 5,594 votes, or 1.57 percentage points.

However, the August polls have been marred by allegations of fraud:

- Exceptionally high turn-out figures: Official results said there was a 99.93% turnout with 95% voting for Ali Bongo in the head of state's home region in contrast to the national turnout of 59% (regional turnout was between 45% and 71%, according to Gabon's interior ministry).

- More voters than listed in the electoral roll: The total number of voters in Bongo's region included several thousand more than actually live in the province, Ping alleged.

- Late opening of polling stations

- Last minute changes to voting procedures

Opposition candidate Jean Ping, 72, claimed he was cheated of victory when he accused the incumbent leader of vote rigging to secure a win and filed a request for a recount of the votes within the nation's Constitutional Court. The Court is set to announce its verdict in the disputed election result today (Friday 23 September).

As Gabonese await the highly anticipated court decision, government officials warned Ping he risked arrest if violence resumes when the Court rules on his challenge to the 27 August election when Bongo won by a wafer-thin margin of less than 6,000 votes.

After two weeks of sporadic violence, Ping earlier this month told judges to choose between stability and instability when weighing their decision for the election result to be nullified.

Africa's first overturned presidential election result?

While recounts are not unprecedented in Gabon – the court ordered a recount that upheld Bongo's 2009 his victory – this may be the first time a court overturns a presidential election result in Africa.

This year, defeated candidates in Uganda and Zambia failed in their legal challenges.

In March, Uganda's Supreme Court rejected third-place finisher Amama Mbabazi's petition seeking nullification of President Yoweri Museveni's disputed re-election. Mbabazi and his supporters have continued to claim the court was biased after it ruled that, while there were irregularities, they did not affect the result.

This echoed a previous ruling in Nigeria, which Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that, while it had found that the Presidential election was marred by irregularities, it could not evidence these had weighed in the final outcome.

Earlier in September Zambia's Constitutional court threw out presidential rival Hakainde Hichilema's election result challenge after he lost the election by 100,000 votes to President Edgar Lungu after Hichilema ran out of time to present his case.

In 2013, Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai abandoned his Constitutional Court challenge to Robert Mugabe's landslide victory 24 hours before the court judges were due to hear the case after the politician claimed he was denied crucial evidence by election officials.