President wins landslide but polls rejected by opposition

Incumbent President Teodoro Obiang Nguema obtained a landslide victory at presidential elections on Sunday in Equatorial Guinea. However, the polls were marred by irregularities, according to opposition parties, which withdrew their candidates about two hours after voting started.

The Spanish daily, El Pais, reported Equatorial Guinea's state TV and radio as saying on Monday night that Obiang Nguema had obtained 99.5 percent of the votes.

The opposition withdrew from the election on Sunday because, it said, the polls were severely flawed. Voting was not done in secret, according to the Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS - Convergence for Social Democracy), one of four opposition parties that fielded presidential candidates. CPDS said in a communique that in the capital, Malabo, voters were intimidated and forced to show polling officers their ballots before putting them into the urns. El Pais reported that state television carried footage of voters showing their ballot papers to officials in polling stations. The CPDS has called on the international community to put pressure on the government to ensure respect for state institutions. The opposition has also called for fresh elections within six months.

The ruling Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE - Equatorial Guinea Democratic party) rejected the opposition complaints and called the withdrawal "irresponsible".

Obiang Nguema, an army general, has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he came to power as a result of a military coup in which the country's first president, Macias Nguema, was killed. In 1996, Obiang won a presidential election widely viewed as flawed, as were parliamentary polls which his party won by a huge margin in 1999.

Equatorial Guinea - population 500,000 - is located in West Africa just south of Cameroon and northwest of Gabon. It comprises a number of islands including Bioko, where Malabo is located, and a continental part that includes the second largest town, Bata. A former Spanish colony, it became independent in 1968. The country depended largely on agriculture until oil was discovered. The opposition has accused the PDGE of injecting huge sums derived from the oil sector into Obiang's campaign.

A number of opposition politicians were unable to participate in Sunday's election since they were detained, tried and convicted in June of plotting a coup d'etat. They include the Secretary-General of the CPDS, Placido Mico, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Nearly 70 people were given sentences ranging from six years to 20 years.

The trial was criticised by human rights advocates. Amnesty International said those convicted were condemned on the sole basis of statements attracted under torture during detention incommunicado.

Equatorial Guinea's authorities have repeatedly been accused of violating human rights. This has led the United Nations to send rapporteurs periodically to look into the country's situation, including this month.

For information on human rights in Equatorial Guinea, see:
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