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Counting Underway in Equatorial Guinea Presidential Election

  • Kate Thomas

President Teodoro Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979 coup, looks set for victory in Equatorial Guinea's presidential election

Incumbent Teodoro Obiang is expected to have the most votes in Equatorial Guinea presidential election count. Final results are expected December 7.

With only a quarter of votes counted, President Teodoro Obiang looks set for victory in Equatorial Guinea's presidential election. Voter turnout was reported to be low Sunday in the oil-rich yet dirt-poor central African nation.

Four candidates are running against President Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea since taking power from his uncle in a 1979 coup.

Among them is Placido Minko Abogo of the Convergence for Social Democracy Party. He accused President Obiang of taking $22 million from state funds to finance his re-election campaign.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the world's richest oil-producing countries, with an annual oil revenue of $3 billion. Offically, it has a per-capita income of about $50,000, but most of the population lives in dire poverty.

"Today the U.S. imports up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day from the country. But the State Department, the IMF and others have repeatedly noted that the government of Equatorial Guinea does not spend enough money on its own people," said Arvind Ganesan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch on Equatorial Guinea.

Rights groups say living conditions have worsened in recent years, with 20 percent of the children dying before their fifth birthday.

According to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, Equatorial Guinea is the 12th most corrupt country in the world. The group accuses President Obiang of using public money on fancy cars and luxury homes, while most Equatorial Guineans struggle to buy food to feed their families.

A graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, President Obiang, 64, owns houses in Maryland and Los Angeles, where his next-door neighbours include Britney Spears and Mel Gibson.

Though he is believed to be suffering from terminal prostate cancer, Mr. Obiang shows no signs of releasing his grip on the country.

"Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea has no free press, no independent judiciary or independent society and arbitary detentions, torture and corruption are rife," said Arvind Ganesan.

In 2004, the government and international security forces thwarted an attempted coup by a former British special forces officer, Simon Mann, who was pardoned and released from jail in Malabo earlier this month after serving five years of a 34-year jail term.

If he wins this election, Mr. Obiang has pledged to pardon Severo Moto, who would have been installed as head of state if the 2004 coup attempt was successful. Moto was sentenced to 62 years in prison.