Gabon - Political parties
When Gabon became independent in 1960, there were two major political parties. The Gabon Democratic Bloc (Bloc Démocratique Gabonais—BDG), led by Léon Mba, was an offshoot of the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain), created by Félix Houphouet-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire. The Gabon Democratic and Social Union (Union Démocratique et Sociale Gabonaise—UDSG), led by Jean-Hilaire Aubame, was affiliated with the Party of African Reunion (Parti de Regroupement Africain), an international movement created by Léopold-Sédar Senghor of Senegal. In the first elections after independence, neither party won a majority in the Assembly, and in the elections held in 1961, the leaders of the two parties agreed upon a single list of candidates; this joint list polled 99% of the votes. Mba became president and Aubame became minister of foreign affairs in a "government of national amity." This government lasted until February 1963, when the BDG element forced the UDSG members to choose between a merger of the parties and resignation from the government. The UDSG ministers all resigned, but Aubame was later appointed president of the newly created Supreme Court. He resigned from this post in December 1963 and resumed his seat in the National Assembly.
In January 1964, Mba dissolved the Assembly and called for new elections on 23 February 1964. The UDSG was unable to present a list of candidates that would meet the electoral law, and when it seemed that the BDG list would be elected by default, the Gabonese military revolted and toppled the Mba government in a bloodless coup led by Aubame on 18 February 1964. French military forces intervened and reestablished the Mba government on 19 February. In the parliamentary elections held on 12 April 1964, the BDG list won 31 seats; the reorganized opposition gained 16 seats.
Another election was held in March 1967, in which Mba was reelected president and Albert-Bernard Bongo was elected vice president. Mba died on 28 November 1967, and Bongo became president on 2 December of that year. On 12 March 1968, the Democratic Party of Gabon (Parti Démocratique Gabonais— PDG), headed by Bongo, became the sole political party. On 25 February 1973, President Bongo was elected to his first full seven-year term. On 30 December 1979, Bongo was reelected with 99.85% of the more than 700,000 votes cast, a total that exceeded by far the number of registered voters. He was reelected again on 9 November 1986, reportedly receiving all but 260 of 904,039 votes cast. The single list of PDG National Assembly candidates was elected in February 1980, although independents were also allowed to run. In 1985, the list consisted of all PDG members, chosen by party activists from 268 nominated; only 35 incumbent deputies were retained. Thirteen women were elected. In 1983, three generals were elected to the central committee of the PDG, the first such admission of the military into high party ranks.
The Movement for National Reform (Mouvement de Redressement National—MORENA), an opposition group, emerged in 1981 and formed a government in exile in 1985. A number of persons were sentenced to long jail terms in 1982 for alleged participation in MORENA. All were released by mid-1986. In 1989, Bongo began talks with elements within MORENA, playing on division within their ranks. The resulting split ushered in the Rassemblement National des Bûcherons, National Rally of Woodcutters (RNB), and the MORENA-Original or Fundamental.
Emerging from the legalization of opposition party activity in March 1991 was the Association for Socialism in Gabon (APSG), the Gabonese Socialist Union (USG), the Circle for Renewal and Progress (CRP), and the Union for Democracy and Development (UDD).
Legislative elections were held in 1991, just prior to the legalization of political parties; the resulting National Assembly was constituted as follows: PDG, 64; Gabonese Party for Progress (PGP), 19; RNB, 17; MORENA-Originals, 7; Socialists, 9; others, 2. Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 1993, but only the presidential ballot was held, on 5 December. Protests over the fairness of the presidential election caused the government to postpone legislative elections.
Elections were delayed several times over the next three years, but were finally held on 15 and 29 December 1996, resulting in a National Assembly comprised as follows: PDG, 85; PGP, 10; RNB, 7; Circle of Liberal Reformers (CLR), 7; Socialists, 2. Elections for the newly created Senate were held on 19 January and 23 February 1997, resulting in a 91-seat chamber situated as follows: PDG, 54; RNB, 19; PGP, 4; Republican and Democratic Alliance, 3; CLR, 1; Rally for Democratic Progress, 1; independents, 9; 2 seats undeclared.
National Assembly elections were last held on 9 and 23 December 2001 with the resulting composition: PDG 86, RNBRPG 8, PGP 3, ADERE 3, CLR 2, PUP 1, PSD 1, independents 13, others 3. Next Assembly elections are scheduled for 2006, and Senate elections for 2004.