Gabon is a presidential republic where the president is both the head of state and the head of government of the country. The country's president is responsible for appointing the prime minister together with cabinet members. Gabon's government comprises of three main branches which are the executive, legislative, and the judiciary. The executive branch of government is headed by the prime minister despite it being previously grabbed by the president whereas the legislative branch of government is formed by the two branches of parliament. Technically, the judicial branch of the government of Gabon is independent but is as equally important as the other two. However, the judiciary is not as independent in practice since the branch is beholden to the same president who is also responsible for appointing the judges. The Gabonese Democratic Party is a conservative party that has dominated the political system of Gabon since the country first gained its independence.
The Executive Branch
The President of Gabon is elected by popular vote to serve a term of 7 years, in turn, he appoints a vice-president who is only answerable to him. However, the vice president is not allowed to sit in as the president in the event that the head of state is incapacitated or dies and the seat becomes vacant. The president also appoints the prime minister who is responsible for appointing the Council of Ministers through consultation with the head of state. El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba was the President of Gabon since its independence in 1967 until his death in 2009. His son Ali Bongo Ondimba is the current president of Gabon. In 2003, President Omar Bongo made amendments to the Constitution of Gabon by removing all restrictions pertaining to the number of terms the country's president is allowed to serve. In addition, the President of Gabon possesses the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and cabinet members, delay legislation, dissolve the National Assembly, conduct referendums, and declares the state of siege.
The Legislative Branch
The legislative branch of Gabon is made up of the Parliament (Parlement). The Parliament comprises of two chambers which are the Senate and the National Assembly. With 120 members in the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) in Gabon, 111 of its members are elected to serve a term of five years in single-seat constituencies. The remaining 9 members are appointed by the country's head of state who is the president. On the other hand, the Senate (Sénat) comprises of 91 members who are elected to serve in single-seat constituencies for a term of six years by local and departmental councillors.
The Judicial Branch
The judicial power in Gabon is exercised by the supreme courts, appeal courts, and lower courts. Following the 1991 constitutional reform, the country's judicial branch was thoroughly modified and developed. The judiciary is made up of several autonomous specialized supreme court and they include the Court of State Security, the Constitutional Supreme Court, the Accounting Supreme Court, the Administrative Supreme Court, and the Judicial Supreme Court.
Elections and the Political Parties in Gabon
In Gabon, elections take place within the framework of the presidential multi-party democracy. However, since the country's independence, the Gabonese Democratic Party has been in power dominating the politics of Gabon. In the country, opposition parties are permitted although they do not stand any real chance of being in power or ruling the country. Voting in Gabon is compulsory with the voting age being 21 years of age. Citizens who are eligible to vote and do not participate may be fined.