24 April 2016

Equatorial Guinea: Incumbent Expected to Win Election

President of Equatorial Guinea Addresses UN General Assembly

Citizens of Equatorial Guinea are heading to the polls in a vote expected to hand the incumbent president, Africa's longest serving leader, another seven-year term in office.

The country's opposition leaders and international civil society groups have already dismissed Sunday's vote as "not credible"

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo faces six mostly unknown opponents, with most of the opposition boycotting the poll.

Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for nearly 37 years after overthrowing his uncle in a coup, is accused of presiding over one of the world's most corrupt and repressive governments.

Critics accuse the 73-year-old of failing to distribute the country's oil wealth to the population of about 700,000.

But according to the poor living in the slums, the money seems to be going to a few people. They allege it is going to the president's family, the inside circle of the government. They say there is not enough distribution of wealth.

Some opposition parties are boycotting the election, some are participating. They are saying it was really difficult for them to campaign. They are saying this process won't be credible. But some key countries have been very quiet about this election.

The main thing we want to see right now is how many people come out to vote. The people expect the president to win, but the key thing is the numbers, will the turn out be high?

According to the UN 2014 Human Development Report, the country has the highest per capita gross domestic product of Any African country - about $37,000. But it ranks 144 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index that measures social and economic development.

As a result, Equatorial Guinea has by far the world's largest gap of all countries between its per capita wealth and its human development score.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from the port city of Bata, said many people living in the country are still "poor, frustrated and unemployed".

"Opposition leaders say much of the nations oil wealth goes to the president and his family," she said.

"They also accuse some in the international community of ignoring alleged human rights abuses because of oil interests."

Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the last election in 2009, Obiang won 97 percent of the vote.

His Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea regularly wins parliamentary votes with a similar majority, always falling barely short of 100 percent.

'We live in a police state'

Opposition parties say campaigning has been difficult ahead of Sunday's vote.

"We are not free here. There is no freedom of speech," UCD party leader Bonifacio Nguema told Al Jazeera.

"Some opposition members have been beaten up and arrested. We live in a police state."

Amnesty International says torture and arbitrary detention of government critics have been routine practices in the country under Obiang's rule.

The government denies allegations made by the opposition and international rights groups about human rights abuses and corruption.

Instead, Obiang's supporters say that the president has boosted Equatorial Guinea's economy and brought peace and security to the country.

Energy Minister Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima says political stability is essential for the country and the incumbent president is the person to provide it for the next seven years.

"We must continue to develop and transform the country," he said. "We need to modernise, grow democratically in a climate of humility so we have peace and economic stability."

Election results will start to come in after the polls close at 9pm local time and final results are expected on Monday.

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