Background: Only two autocratic presidents have ruled Gabon since independence from France in 1960. Gabon's current President, El Hadj Omar BONGO Ondimba - one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world - has dominated Gabon's political scene for almost four decades. President BONGO introduced a nominal multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s. However, the low turnout and allegations of electoral fraud during the most recent local elections in 2002-03 have exposed the weaknesses of formal political structures in Gabon. Presidential elections scheduled for 2005 are unlikely to bring change since the opposition remains weak, divided, and financially dependent on the current regime. Despite political conditions, a small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous and stable African countries.