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Ruling Party Expected to Win Equatorial Guinea Elections - 2004-04-25


In the tiny West African oil-producing country of Equatorial Guinea, parliamentary elections are expected to extend the domination of the ruling party.

Voters went to the polls Sunday in Equatorial Guinea to elect the new legislature, which will be made up of 100 lawmakers.

Seventy-five out of 80 seats in the outgoing single-chamber parliament are held by the ruling Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party.

A British-based West Africa expert, Chris Melville, from the World Markets Research Center, says he expects the dominance to continue because state authorities in Equatorial Guinea repress credible opposition parties.

"They suffer near constant oppression, particularly during election campaigns whether it's the destruction of electoral materials or physical aggression from the security services," said Mr. Melville. "I can't see how they would actually be able to mobilize any of their core supporters. I think the latent support for opposition groups is probably quite strong, but the conditions are such in terms of the extent of government agents in communities spurring on their neighbors and so on that I do not believe that anybody would voice that pro-opposition sentiment unless they were sure that they would not be the target of violent arrest, torture, and so on."

Elections are also being held for 30 municipalities, all of which are currently controlled by the ruling party.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema founded the Democratic Party in 1987, eight years after he came to power in a coup that toppled his uncle, who was then executed.

Equatorial Guinea, which has a population of just one million, is Africa's third-biggest oil producer, but ordinary citizens have not benefited.

If it wins again, the ruling party has promised to build 10,000 new homes and provide electricity and clean water to main cities. The elections come several weeks after President Obiang said he thwarted a coup bid against him by foreign mercenaries.

A presidential decree has banned consumption of alcohol until Monday, when election results are expected to begin trickling in.

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