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5 decades of rule at stake as Gabon heads to the polls

President Ali Bongo comes up against Jean Ping who was foreign minister in his father’s government.

Ali Bongo celebrates after being declared the winner of a bitter presidential election in oil-rich Gabon. Picture: Gallo Images/AFP

PRETORIA - Five decades of family rule are at stake when Gabonese go to the polls tomorrow.

President Ali Bongo, seeking a second term, comes up against Jean Ping who was foreign minister in his father Omar Bongo's government.

Omar Bongo ruled the oil rich little country in the western part of central Africa for 42 years.

Now his son is seeking a second seven-year term as president on a pledge to diversify an economy that gets 60 percent of its revenue from oil.

The man hoping to end the Bongo family's long lock on power is former African Union Commission chief Ping.

He faces an uphill battle against Bongo, who is backed by the country's powerful elite and leaders of France, the country's former colonial master.

Tensions are high ahead of the vote.

Opposition leaders have been barred from organising public rallies, raising fears of election fraud.