Polls have opened in Gabon for a presidential election where President Ali Bongo seeks a third term.

Bongo became president in 2009 after his father's death and is facing competition from 13 other candidates.

Rival candidate Albert Ondo Ossa of the Alternance 2023 coalition aims to challenge Bongo's rule.

Concerns about the election process arise due to disputed results in Bongo's previous wins and last-minute changes to the ballot papers.

Voters are now required to mark a single ballot for both the president and MP of the same party, which disadvantages independent candidates like Ondo Ossa.

Foreign media are banned from covering the election, and international monitors from the EU and UN will not be present.

A row erupted before the vote with Bongo accusing Ondo Ossa and another opposition figure of treason, which they deny.

The election also involves choosing mayors and local councillors, taking place in a country with a population of 2.3 million and significant oil wealth.

The pandemic's economic impact has led to a decline in Gabon's raw material exports.

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