The top court in Gabon has ruled that the vice president will chair the cabinet in the absence of President Ali Bongo, who remains in hospital in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke last month.
The decision, announced by the constitutional court on Wednesday, is the first move to fill the vacuum left after Bongo was admitted to hospital during a conference on Oct. 24.
“Only the president has the power to chair the Council of Ministers. Unfortunately he is temporarily unavailable for health reasons, and temporary unavailability is not addressed by the constitution,” said Gabon’s Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, who leads the cabinet.
The Bongo family has held power in the country for almost half a century. Bongo has been president since he took over from his father, Omar, who died in 2009. His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.