A vote was held on Sunday to extend the authority of President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, the world’s longest-serving leader. Obiang has ruled the tiny, authoritarian African state for the past 43 years, during which time the country’s previously abundant oil wealth has been in steep decline.
“What you sow is what you reap,” said Obiang, who is now 80 years old and has consistently won more than 90 percent of the vote in elections held over the course of five terms since he took power from his uncle in a coup in 1979. Obiang has served as president of Equatorial Guinea for a total of five terms.
There are two candidates representing the opposition: Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu, who has run in each of the five elections that have come before this one, and Andrés Esono Ondo, who is a figure in the opposition and is running for the first time. Esono Ondo said over the phone that his party would be challenging the result in court and called it “a complete fraud.”
He claimed that the voting was at least appearing to be fair in Malabo, the capital of the island, but that his party has evidence that officials in other parts of the country were either voting for voters on their behalf or coercing them to vote for the incumbent party. It was not possible to get a comment from the government or from officials working for Equatorial Guinea’s electoral directorate.
According to Maja Bovcon, a senior Africa analyst at the risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft, the outcome of the election was beyond any reasonable doubt. “The closure of the borders as well as the harassment and arrests of opposition supporters have been paving the way for the extension of Obiang’s 43-year rule,” Bovcon said. The United States and the European Union have both voiced their worry over claims of harassment and intimidation directed toward civil society organizations and opposition parties, and they have called for free and fair elections. The government said that the accusations were an attempt to mess with the way its elections were run.
On Friday, as he was winding up his campaign, Obiang said that he had made the decision to move the presidential election up by a few months and to hold it simultaneously with the legislative and municipal elections in order to save money in light of the current economic crisis. The OPEC member state’s income comes mostly from the production of oil and gas. This accounts for around three-quarters of those revenues. But in recent years, production has gone down to about 93,000 barrels per day (bpd) from about 160,000 bpd in 2015. This is because oil resources are getting older and less useful.
In a country with a population of over 1.5 million, there are over 400,000 people registered to vote. In addition, voters will cast ballots to elect 100 members of parliament for the lower house, 55 of the country’s 70 senators, and municipal mayors in each of the cities and towns across the country.