Equatorial Guinea’s veteran ruler Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has taken the lead in the west African country’s presidential race, according to provisional results released by the interior ministry on Monday.
Obiang is all-but-certain of winning a record sixth term in a country with next to no opposition.
The 80-year-old leader has been in power for more than 43 years – the longest of any head of state alive today, excluding monarchs.
Over 400,000 people were registered to vote in the country of around 1.5 million. Voters also cast ballots to elect 100 members of parliament for the lower house, 55 of the country’s 70 senators, and local mayors.
Observers expect no surprises.
“What you sow is what you reap,” said Obiang, who has regularly won more than 90 percent of the vote in elections conducted over the course of five terms since he seized power from his uncle in a coup in 1979.
“I am sure that the victory is for PDGE,” he said, referring to his party.
He is vying for a sixth term against just two opposition candidates – Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu, who is running for the sixth time against Obiang, and Andrés Esono Ondo, who is running for the first time.
“It is a total fraud,” Esono Ondo told Reuters by phone, saying his party would challenge the result in court.
He said some semblance of fair voting was taking place in the island capital Malabo, but his party had evidence that officials elsewhere were casting ballots on voters’ behalf or forcing them to vote for the ruling party.
Devoid of suspense
“The presidential election is completely devoid of suspense,” said Maja Bovcon, a senior Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft.
“The closure of the borders and the harassment and arrests of opposition supporters have been paving the way for the extension of Obiang’s 43-year rule,” she said.
The United States and the European Union called for a free and fair election in separate statements, and raised concerns over reports of harassments and intimidation of the opposition and civil society groups.
The government rejected the reports, calling them interference in its electoral process.
Equatorial Guinea has had only two presidents since independence from Spain in 1968. Obiang ousted his uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in a coup in 1979.
Closing his campaign on Friday, Obiang said he decided to bring the presidential election forward by several months, and hold it together with the legislative and municipal elections, to save money due to the economic crisis.
Oil and gas production accounts for around three quarters of revenues in the OPEC member state. But output has dwindled in recent years to around 93,000 barrels per day (bpd), from around 160,000 bpd in 2015 due to maturing fields.