Gabon president Ali Bongo Ondimba is to seek a court ruling on a possible deferral of the 2011 election to next year to allow for the introduction of biometrics, a statement released Monday said.
The president is to refer the matter to the constitutional court, said the statement published following a meeting with the opposition and civil society.
"I have listened to the different declarations of party representatives. I am going to refer the matter to the constitutional court as soon as possible so that it can rule on the consensual position which pleads in favour of a deferral of the election," the statement said.
"I hope that it will quickly make clear the path to follow, without prejudging the court's response, because its legality is important and cannot be taken lightly," the president said, as the Gabonese constitution warned that elections could only be delayed in cases of "force majeure".
The move comes after the president put forward two related scenarios at the end of April.
One would see biometric polling cards put in place before the end of the year at a cost of 90 million euros ($128 million). The other, which would take about a year, involves gathering other information and a saving of 30 million euros.
A group of about 20 non-governmental organisations and associations announced their support Saturday for a deferral "so that the country can adopt a biometric system and put in place all the electoral and institutional reforms necessary to ensure a transparent and reliable election.
The opposition, who contested the results of the 2009 presidential election, repeated their call for biometrics to be used in the next poll.
Fidele Waura, secretary general of the Gabon People's Union (UPG), one of the two main opposition parties, said they had been calling for biometrics for five years.
"We are in favour of the deferral. But if we are to introduce biometrics, it must be done correctly," he told AFP.© ANP/AFP