Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 16:10 UK

Bongo son set for Gabon candidacy

Ali-Ben Bongo pictured at his father's funeral, 16/06
Ali-Ben Bongo's candidacy is likely to prove controversial

The son of Gabon's late President Omar Bongo has been chosen by the ruling party to stand in the presidential election expected in late August.

The decision was announced on national TV by Gabonese Democratic Party's deputy general secretary Angel Ondo.

Rights groups had argued that no member of the former government should stand again, and expressed particular concern over Mr Bongo's son, Ali-Ben Bongo.

Analysts say Mr Bongo will be the strong favourite to succeed his father.

"The PDG is overwhelmingly dominant. None of the opposition parties can really match it - unless there's strong popular resistance to the idea of a continuation of the Bongo dynasty," Africa analyst Paul Melly told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He said Ali-Ben was likely to rule in the style of his father, who co-opted members of the opposition into the government and the political establishment.

Election officials have recommended 30 August as the date for the next election.

Human rights group accuse the ruling party of funding election campaigns with state money.

Dynastic rule?

The death of 73-year-old Omar Bongo, who ran Gabon for more than 40 years, was announced in June.

Nicolas Sarkozy with Omar Bongo, 2007
Led Gabon for nearly 42 years
Oil money means Gabon officially one of richest countries in Africa
Maintained close ties to former colonial power France
He denied corruption charges in French courts
Allowed multi-party polls in 1993; opposition said they weren't fair

As the government moved to fill the power vacuum, analysts speculated that his long-term successor would be his son, Ali-Ben, or his daughter, Pascaline, who had served as his chief of staff.

Mr Ondo ended that speculation by confirming the candidacy of Ali-Ben Bongo, who is the current defence minister.

"The political committee has decided by large consensus to list Ali-Ben Bongo as the Gabonese Democratic Party's (PDG) candidate in the presidential election," he said.

The 50-year-old's nomination is due to be formally ratified by a party congress later this week.

Rights groups have expressed fears of a dynastic rule in the oil-rich nation.

They have long accused the Bongo family of running the country as their private property.

Omar Bongo amassed a vast fortune during his years in office - but most of the 1.4 million people in Gabon live in poverty.

He maintained close economic and political links with former colonial power France, but French prosecutors launched an investigation into Mr Bongo's wealth in the months before his death.

He was accused of embezzling oil revenues and bribery.

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