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Spain: ‘If we rig elections to conquer power, that is also irregular way’ – Borrell takes aim at ‘institutional coups’ following Gabon, Niger army takeovers

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The European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell criticised ‘institutional takeovers’ and election-rigging while commenting on recent military coups in both Niger and Gabon, during a briefing ahead of the informal EU foreign affairs ministerial meeting – also known as the ‘gymnich’ – in Toledo on Thursday.

« Military coups are not the solution, but we must not forget that Gabon had previously held some elections full of irregularities, » he alleged.

« There are military coups and there are institutional coups, in which weapons are not necessary. But if we rig the elections to conquer power, that is also an irregular way to reach power, » he stated.

On Wednesday, army officers in Gabon seized power, announced they had ‘cancelled’ Saturday’s election and put President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest. The incumbent leader had been declared the winner with nearly two-thirds of the vote, although the country’s opposition claimed the victory was fraudulent.

Last month, Niger’s military also ousted democratically-elected leader Mohamed Bazoum and installed General Abdourahamane Tchiani as head of state.

The EU chief also criticised what he termed ‘Russian mercenaries’ following a number of coups across the African continent. Previously, Moscow condemned the takeover in Niger and called for a return to constitutional order, while Washington stated there was ‘no indication’ Russia had anything to do with it.

Borrell did state that ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Commission President Omar Touray and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassoumi Massoudou were set to attend the meeting.

« Today will be a good occasion to talk about ECOWAS, to know more about their plans, to see how the African people states react, the African solutions to the African problems. But it also an occasion for us to review our African policy, » he said.

The EU foreign affairs representative added that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba would attend the meeting in Toledo and provide a briefing on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace plan.

« Today we are going to have these discussions together with Minister Kuleba, who came here personally to debrief the ministers about the situation, and in particular how the [recent peace] talks on Jeddah and next UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) in New York, how we can push the plans of President Zelensky, » he said.

« Yesterday it was more on the military and defence side, today is more the diplomatic, not just about the war, but about how to end the war from the point of view of the peace plan presented by President Zelensky, » Borrell added.

It marks the second day of talks in Toledo, following the defence ministers meeting on Wednesday. Earlier, Borrell outlined new proposals for financial-military support to Ukraine, with a yearly budget of 5 billion euros.

In mid-November, the Ukrainian leader proposed his 10-point ‘peace formula’ at the G20 summit. It included a cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of Russian troops and restoration of Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity’, as well as nuclear, food and energy security.

Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded that there could be ‘no peace plan for Ukraine’ with the country recognising the ‘realities’ of the regions which had joined Russia following referenda – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson. Kiev dismissed that as an annexation.

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