The modern history of Gabon started in the 14th Century when waves of the Bantu people arrived and settled in the country.
In the 15th Century the Portuguese arrived and in the 16th century the Dutch, English and French all got involved in the thriving slave trade.
In 1839 Gabon became a French protectorate and in 1910 it became a constituent part of French Equatorial Africa. This was to continue until 1959 when the French agreed to the breakup of their colonies and on 17th August 1960 Gabon achieved independence.
In early elections two parties dominated, the Gabonese Democratic Bloc (BDG) led by Léon M’Ba and the Union Democratique et Sociale Gabonese (UDSG) led by Jean-Hilaire Aubame. After inconclusive results the two leaders met and decided to create a one party system.
In 1961 the agreement was implemented in elections where M’Ba became President and Aubame became Foreign Minister. The agreement, however, was short lived and started to break down in 1963 when the UDSG left the government.
On 18th Febraury 1964 a bloodless military coup toppled M’Ba, but a day later his government was re-installed by French troops.
In 1964 the two parties slogged it out again in a reduced National Assembly of 47 seats, with the BDG winning 31 seats and the UDSG winning 16 seats.
By 1966 a new constitution had been approved which allowed for a Vice President to replace the President in the event of the latter’s death. Soon after M’Ba died from cancer and his Vice-President, Omar Bongo became president.
In March 1967 Omar Bongo won the presidential election and the Gabonese Democratic Bloc won the general election – it was the only party standing.
Although never enshrined in law, Gabon, in effect, became a one party state when Bongo dissolved the BDG and founded the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) in 1968. The PDG has ruled ever since.
There were elections in 1969, 1973, 1980 and 1985 but the PDG was the only party standing and Omar Bongo was the only presidential candidate in similar presidential elections.
It wasn’t until 1990 when both internal and external pressures forced political reforms which created a Senate and introduced multi-party elections. In elections of that year the PDG had its worst result, taking 63 of 120 seats in the National Assembly and holding on to power.
In 1996 they increased their tally to 85 seats and in 2001 it went up to 88 seats. In 2006 they took a slight fall to 82 seats.
Meanwhile Omar Bongo won the 1993 presidential election with 51.2% of the vote, that went up to 66.9% in 1998 and in 2005 it reached 79.18%.
On 8th June 2009 Omar Bongo died and fresh elections were held. On 30th August Omar Bongo’s son, Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected the new president with 41.7% of the vote.
Over all those years since independence a divided opposition has allowed the PDG to remain in power, although they have shared that power with a multitude of smaller parties since 1990.
The President is elected to serve for a seven-year term with no term limits.
A bicameral legislature consists of the Senate with 102 seats serving for six years. Members are elected by members of municipal councils and departmental assemblies. The National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale has120 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve five-year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Gabon at joint 101st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 35 (where 100 is least corrupt).