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Opposition candidate faces battle against time and electoral commission

Ondo Ossa was selected to lead the alliance to challenge President Ali Bongo Ondimba just eight days before national elections

On 18 August, Albert Ondo Ossa, the 69-year-old former education minister, emerged as the consensus candidate as the surprise pick of Alternance 2023, which brings together six opposition groups. He has a few days for his campaign ahead of polling day on 26 August.

Initially, he was viewed as an outsider compared to Alexandre Barro Chambrier of the opposition Rassemblement Pour La Patrie et la Modernité (RPM) party, Union Nationale head Paulette Missambo and Raymond Ndong Sima, a former prime minister in one of President Ali Bongo Ondimba's governments. 

Alternance 2023 was launched in January primarily to avoid a repeat of the opposition divisions at the 2016 elections where Jean Ping came within around 5,500 votes of Bongo despite struggling to unite the opposition or build a nationwide support base. Ping alleged that the election was fixed.

Perhaps in anticipation of the opposition's move to adopt a joint candidate, last month the Commission électorale nationale autonome et permanente, which is led by Bongo allies, announced that any vote for a local deputy would automatically be a vote for that deputy's presidential candidate, potentially creating a hurdle for Ondo Ossa who does not represent an individual party (AC Vol 57 No 7, Little rain on Bongo's parade).

Ondo Ossa has said that he will dissolve parliament and call fresh parliamentary elections should he win the presidency.

Incumbency and the fact that the Bongo family has held the presidency since 1967 makes Bongo, who announced that he would seek a third term in July, the clear favourite. Yet concerns persist about Bongo's fitness to govern. The President suffered a stroke in 2018 and reports about his poor health persist (AC Vol 61 No 15, Public relations premier).

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